More than 60 people have been killed – including mourners and grave-diggers – in attacks by cattle rustlers on a village in northwestern Zamfara state since Tuesday, residents have said.
Police say they recovered only three bodies, but residents of Bawardaji village were adamant that the number of dead was more than 60.
Bandits first attacked the village on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least 13 people, after getting information that a vigilante group was meeting to discuss how to confront them, the eyewitnesses said.
Many other people escaped with gunshots into the bush and to neighbouring villages. Some of them died later, the residents said.
The gunmen returned to the village on Wednesday and attacked a mass funeral procession as the community was preparing to bury its dead from the previous day’s attack.
The attack left 63 people dead. Dozens of people in the funeral procession as well as grave-diggers were killed.
“We were at the cemetery digging graves to bury those [they killed earlier], only for us to see them come back in a convoy of motorcycles. We ran and they started shooting at us,” one man said.
“As I am talking to you now only three of us survived from among those who attended the funeral at the cemetery. Six people from my family [attended the funeral] and only I survived,” he added.
Another resident said of the 63 people killed in the attacks, 38 bodies were found in a bush.
The attacks came less than a week after President Muhammadu Buhari visited the troubled state, and urged the security agencies to wipe out “criminality”.
Police denied knowledge of Wednesday’s attack, and said they fought off the bandits when they raided the village the previous day.
”When the attackers first attacked the village, a joint team of police and military personnel was deployed there to fight them off. And they engaged them in a gun battle which forced them to flee into the bush. After chasing them, our men found three dead bodies of the villagers who were killed by the armed bandits,” Zamfara police spokesman Muhammad Shehu said.