Kano (Nigeria), Apr 13 (AFP) Gunmen have killed 26 people in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state, in the latest in a series of attacks blamed on cattle thieves, a local official said today.

Men on motorcycles attacked gold miners near Kuru-Kuru village in Anka district late Thursday and clashed with residents from a nearby village who had mobilised in anticipation of the assault.

"We buried 26 people killed in the two attacks by the armed bandits," chairman of Anka local government Mustapha Gado Anka told AFP.

"The victims were miners from Kuru-Kuru that were attacked and residents of Jarkuka village who had come to help their neighbours," Anka said.

He said the assailants ambushed the group of volunteers from Jarkuka who had come to help.

Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu confirmed the attack, but declined to give details "until after the police commissioner is briefed".

The killings were the latest round of tit-for-tat attacks by cattle thieves on farming communities in the state. Last month, at least 36 people were killed in a similar fashion in nearby Bawar-Daji.

Gunmen on motorbikes invaded the village and opened fire on mourners who had gone to a cemetary to bury victims of a previous attack.

For several years, rural communities in the agrarian state have been under siege from gangs of cattle rustlers who carry out deadly raids on herding communities to kill, loot and burn homes.

In the absence of a robust police force and effective judicial system in Nigeria, villagers have created local vigilante groups to fight off the gangs.

But the vigilantes are equally responsible for the bloodshed and are also accused of extra-judicial killings.

Residents said the intensification of the attacks was because locals were cooperating with soldiers sent to quell the attacks.

"People have been cooperating with soldiers sent to fight the bandits and we believe this is why they have been launching renewed attacks," a resident told AFP.

In early April, the Nigerian air force deployed special forces to the state to reinforce troops on the ground fighting the bandits. Following the Bawar-Daji attack, state governor Abdulaziz Yari ordered troops to shoot on sight anyone found with a gun in the area.

Nigeria, West Africa's largest economy, is battling an array of security concerns across the country, from Boko Haram jihadists in the northeast to oil militants in the south.

President Muhammadu Buhari has deployed troops in many states to combat cattle rustlers and criminal gangs and try and contain clashes between herdsmen and farmers. (AFP) CPS

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