0910 GMT June 28, 2022
A spokesperson for Sadiya Umar Farouq, minister of humanitarian affairs, said more than 200 bodies were buried, Al Jazeera reported.
“We are very saddened by this incessant invasion… and we also worried about the displaced persons who are fleeing in their hundreds from their communities,” Nneka Ikem Anibeze said on Sunday.
Farouq called the past week’s attacks in Zamfara state “horrific and tragic,” giving the first official toll after details began filtering out early Saturday.
The minister said more 10,000 people were displaced when “their homes were razed by the bandits while scores are still missing”.
The state government had previously said 58 people were killed in the attacks.
Locals returned to their villages on Saturday to organise mass burials.
The military conducted air attacks last Monday on targets in the Gusami forest and west Tsamre village in Zamfara, killing more than 100 bandits including two of their leaders.
More than 300 gunmen on motorcycles stormed eight villages in the Anka local area in Zamfara on Tuesday and started shooting sporadically, killing at least 30 people.
Attackers also rampaged through 10 villages in Anka and Bukkuyum districts on Wednesday through Thursday, firing at residents and looting and burning homes.
Babandi Hamidu, a resident of Kurfa Danya village, said the assailants were shooting “anyone on sight”.
“The search for more bodies is ongoing because many people are unaccounted for,” Hamidu told AFP.
President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement on Saturday the military acquired more equipment to track down and eliminate criminal gangs, which have been subjecting people to a reign of terror, including through the illegal imposition of taxes on communities under siege.
“The latest attacks on innocent people by the bandits is an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from our military forces,” Buhari said.
Buhari added the government will not relent in its military operations to get rid of the armed gangs.
Northwest Nigeria has seen a sharp rise in mass abductions and other violent crimes since late 2020 as the government struggles to maintain law and order.
Last year, bandits made international headlines with a series of high-profile attacks on schools and colleges where they kidnapped hundreds of pupils. Most were released but some of those students are still being held.
Bandit violence has its roots in clashes between nomadic cattle herders and sedentary farmers over land and resources. But tit-for-tat attacks have over the years spiralled into broader criminality.
Nigeria’s armed forces said last week they killed 537 “armed bandits and other criminal elements” in the region and arrested 374 others since May last year, while 452 “kidnapped civilians were rescued”.
Bandits loyal to notorious gang leader Bello Turji suffered heavy losses last month in ground-and-air raids on their forest-based camps.
Nigeria designated bandits as “terrorist” groups, allowing for tougher sanctions under the “terrorism” prevention act for suspected shooters, their informants, and supporters such as those caught supplying them with fuel and food.