Gunmen attack worshippers in northwestern Nigeria; 5 killed, 18 kidnapped

Gunmen attack worshippers at a mosque in northwestern Nigeria, killing five and kidnapping at least 18, police said.

State police spokesperson said, “The bandits killed five worshippers and kidnapped 18 others, including the imam.”

Local media reports said about 100 cattle thieves on motorcycles opened fire on a Muslim congregation in remote Dutsen Gari village in Maru district as residents were observing weekly Friday prayers.

“The gunmen attacked the mosque while the imam was delivering the sermon and took away more than 30 people, including the imam, after shooting dead five worshippers,” one resident said.

Northwest Nigeria is a hotbed of criminal gangs accused of raiding villages, stealing cattle, kidnapping for ransom and burning homes after looting food supplies.

The country’s northwest sees occasional clashes between the herder Fulani people, one of the largest ethnic groups widely dispersed across West Africa, and neighbouring tribes.

The Fulani, who migrated to the south to graze their cattle, claim farmers have tried to steal their animals and attack their people.

The gangs maintain camps in the Rugu forest, which straddles Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states, from where they launch attacks.

Troop deployments and peace talks with local authorities have failed to end the attacks.

Criminal gangs have killed about 8,000 people since 2011 and forced more than 200,000 to flee their homes.