LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen have killed at least 30 people in northwest Nigeria in the latest round of violence in which hundreds have been killed so far this year and thousands more displaced.
Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto state governor, said Monday that the gunmen stormed Goronyo community on Sunday evening to carry out the attack that lasted through the night. The area attacked is just 75 kilometers (46 miles) away from the Sokoto state capital, unlike past attacks which were in more remote areas.
“Between last night, yesterday evening till this morning, we were greeted with a very dastardly attack in Goronyo local government, particularly Goronyo township, where scores and tens have lost their lives and still counting. We’re not sure of the figure. But it is 30 something,” Tambuwal said in a statement.
The governor was speaking when he received Lt. Gen. Farouk Yahaya, Nigeria’s army chief of staff, who recently commissioned special military operations to bring under control the country's rising violence.
Those operations, in addition to extreme measures such as blockades of telecommunications and curfews, have not stopped the armed groups from attacking communities. The gunmen often kill dozens of residents in areas with little security presence.
In Sokoto, one of the most affected states where the bandits have taken advantage of the large swathes of land that are not patrolled along the border with the neighboring country of Niger, residents have told AP that some attacks are not heard of until days or weeks after they have occurred.
“We are under bandits now,” state lawmaker Amina Al-Mustapha recently told AP of violence in the Sabon Birnin area of Sokoto. "No single village has not been attacked."
Children and women have also been targeted in the violence. The gunmen often abduct women and have kidnapped more than 1,400 schoolchildren over the past year, according to UNICEF.
It is a “very trying moment” for Nigeria, the Sokoto governor said, adding that Nigeria is “bedevilled by many security challenges in our own area here, particularly banditry, kidnapping and other associated crimes.”
It has been difficult for the government to stop the attacks because often the gunmen outnumber Nigerian security personnel in affected villages and are also better equipped, according to Nnamdi Obasi of the International Crisis Group. He said a “serious deficit of will” by government officials across all levels contributes to the prolonged crisis.