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Cattle thieves ambushed, killing 41 guards in northern Nigeria

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A gang of cattle thieves in restive northern Nigeria ambushed and killed 41 forest natives who had mobilized from several villages in Bakuri district of Katsina state to track down the gang, who had stolen cattle from a local resident the day before.

The robbers ambushed the guards late on Friday, killing 41 and wounding two others, said Jumbo Esa, a spokesman for the Katsina state police. He said the guards were armed with Kalashnikov rifles.

“The killers shot and killed 41 yansakai and wounded two,” he added, adding that their bodies were recovered. “A joint security operation is underway to prosecute the perpetrators,” he said.

Residents said 52 people were killed in the attack in Yargoji forest in the neighboring Kankara district. “The police entered the forest between Thursday and Friday and brought 52 bodies to the guards in two batches,” said Idris Othman. He said dozens of other guards were taken to hospital with injuries.

Abdullah al-Sada, another local, gave the exact number of dead, saying the attackers were from neighboring Zamfara state.

Katsina is among several states in the northwest. Central Nigeria is terrorized by criminal gangs who raid villages, kill residents, kidnap for ransom, steal livestock and burn homes after looting. Units maintain camps in a vast jungle stretching across the states of Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger.

The southern part of Katsina, including Bakuri and Kankara, is located near the border with Zamfara and has been frequently targeted by gangs based in the neighboring state.

Bandits kidnapped more than 300 schoolchildren in Kankara in December 2021. The schoolchildren were taken to Zamfara and released after paying the ransom.

The communities then formed vigilante groups to fight the attacks of the criminal gangs. However, the militia has been banned by state authorities due to a lack of basic security training, which has put them, they say, at undue risk.

“This unfortunate loss of life for these guards resulted from putting the laws into their own hands,” the security adviser to the governor, Ibrahim Ahmad Katsina, told Agence France-Presse. He added, “We have asked the local communities not to pursue the terrorists when they attack them, but rather we informed the security services immediately.”

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