Gunmen on Tuesday killed 11 security personnel, including seven policemen and four vigilantes, in attacks in central and northwestern Nigeria, in the latest violence blamed heavily armed criminal gangs.
Northwest and central Nigeria have been terrorized for years by the gangs who raid and loot villages, steal cattle and carry out mass abductions of residents for ransom.
But recently attacks have intensified despite military attempts to drive bandits out of their camps in forests.
In the first attack on Tuesday, scores of bandits stormed a police station in central Niger state’s Magama district around 1200 GMT, leading to a gunfight with policemen and local militia, Wasiu Biodun, Niger police spokesman said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, during the gun battle, the DPO (Divisional Police Officer), two other policemen, and four vigilante members lost their lives,” Biodun said in the statement.
Several bandits were also “neutralized” in the “fierce gun battle” in which many of the attackers escaped with injuries, the statement said.
Police personnel deployed in the area after the attacks to maintain order, Biodun said.
In the second attack in neighboring Kebbi state, motorcycle-riding bandits numbering around 500 invaded a tomato-processing factory in Gafara village of Ngaski district, in a bid to abduct expatriate workers, Nafiu Abubakar, Kebbi state police spokesman said.
“The policemen guarding the factory engaged the bandits in a gunfight, which led to the death of four policemen and one resident while several of the gunmen were also killed,” Abubakar said.
The gunmen launched the attack from their base in Niger state, Abubakar said.
“They (bandits) wanted to kidnap the expatriates but they did not succeed in their nefarious mission.”
The bandits who were officially declared terrorists by the government in January operate from camps hidden in a vast forest straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, and Niger states.
On Tuesday, 19 security personnel, including 13 soldiers, were killed when bandits attacked Kebbi’s Kanya village, a day after they killed at least 57 vigilantes in an ambush in nearby Sakaba.
Bandit violence in Nigeria’s northwest and central states is just one challenge facing security forces, who are also fighting against a 12-year jihadist insurgency in the northeast and separatist tensions in the southeast of the country.