Gang ambush, kill 41 vigilantes in Katsina, Nigeria.

A gang of cattle thieves in Nigeria’s troubled north ambushed and killed 41 vigilantes in a forest who had mobilized from several villages in the Bakori district of Katsina state to track down the gang, which had stolen cattle from a local the previous day.

Katsina state police spokesman Gambo Isah said the vigilantes were ambushed late Friday by the thieves, who killed 41 and injured two others. He said the vigilantes were armed with Kalashnikov rifles.

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“The hoodlums shot and killed 41 Yansakai (vigilantes) and wounded two,” he said, adding that their bodies had been recovered. “A joint security operation is ongoing to bring the perpetrators to book,” he said.

Residents said 52 people had been killed in the attack in the Yargoje forest in the neighboring Kankara district. “The police went into the forest between Thursday and Friday and brought 52 bodies of the vigilantes in two batches,” Idris Usman said. He said dozens of other vigilantes were also brought to the hospital with injuries.

Another local, Abdullahi Sada, gave the exact toll, 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 cattle, and burn homes after looting them. The units maintain camps in a vast forest straddling the states of Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, and Niger.

The southern part of Katsina, including Bakori and Kankara, lies near the border with Zamfara and has been repeatedly targeted by gangs based in the adjoining state.

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Bandits kidnaped more than 300 schoolboys in Kankara in December 2021. The pupils were taken to Zamfara and released after the ransom was paid.

Local communities then formed vigilante groups to fight attacks by criminal gangs. However, the militia was outlawed by state authorities for lack of basic security training, which, they say, exposed them to unnecessary danger.

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“This unfortunate loss of lives of these vigilantes was the result of taking laws into their (own) hands,” Ibrahim Ahmad Katsina, security adviser to the governor, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “We have told communities not to go after terrorists when they attack them but to inform security agencies promptly,” he added.

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