An armed gang has raided a northern Nigerian village and killed 48 people in an apparent reprisal attack targeting a local vigilante group, a state official said Wednesday.
"There was an attack by armed bandits early Tuesday on Kizara village where 48 residents were killed in apparent targeted killings by cattle rustlers that have been terrorising the state for some time now," said Ibrahim Birnin-Magaji, commissioner for information in Zamfara state, where the village is located.
Dozens of gunmen arrived in the village before dawn on motorbikes, he told AFP.
"Some of them climbed up the hill overlooking the village and opened fire indiscriminately," he said.
"They later moved house to house, telling residents that they were looking for members of local vigilante whom they said had been disturbing them."
He said those killed included the local chief, the chief imam and the head of the vigilante group in the village.
Many villages in Nigeria form local vigilante groups to defend themselves against violent cattle rustlers or other criminal gangs, sometimes leading to a cycle of clashes and reprisal attacks.
Zamfara state, located in Nigeria's northwest, has seen a number of such incidents.
There was so far no sign of any link to Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has been waging a deadly insurgency mainly in Nigeria's northeast. Nigeria's military is currently engaged in an offensive seeking to end Boko Haram's four-year insurgency.
However, the raid is the latest sign of insecurity in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, where authorities have been largely unable to stop such violence.