At Least 40 Villagers Shot Dead In Latest Violence In Nigeria's Conflict-Hit North

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Armed men attacked remote villages in northcentral Nigeria, killing at least a dozen villagers during a late-night raid, authorities said Tuesday.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack which follows a similar pattern to yearslong violence in the region blamed on the fight for control over water and land between nomadic herders and rural farmers. These raids have so far killed hundreds in the region.

The local Punch newspaper cited witnesses as saying at least 40 people were killed in Plateau’s Wase district on Monday night. However, government officials told The Associated Press only 12 casualties have so far been confirmed.

It is common for official figures to be less than that of witness accounts in such attacks.

The attackers opened fire on villagers in Wase’s Zurak community, forcing many to flee into nearby bushes, Musa Ashoms, the state commissioner for information said. “We are trying to comb the area to see whether we have more casualties or people with bullet wounds,” he added.

The motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked the village following a security operation that targeted their hideouts and aimed to “wipe” them out of the area, Idris Wase, a federal legislator from Plateau’s Wase district said.

Locals have repeatedly expressed concern over how the assailants can attack villages for hours and escape before security forces arrive on the scene.

Arrests following such attacks are rare.

In December, assailants killed at least 140 residents during an attack that targeted more than a dozen communities over two days.