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KANO: Gunmen raided two villages in northwest Nigeria killing 24 people, police and residents said Thursday, in the latest attacks by gangs of criminals. Northwest and central Nigeria have for years been plagued by heavily-armed gangs called bandits who raid villages, kidnap residents and loot and burn homes.

Military operations are ongoing in the region, with the army saying last week it had "neutralised" nearly 300 bandits, but attacks have continued.

On Tuesday, motorcycle-riding bandits stormed two villages in Katsina and nearby Zamfara in separate attacks, killing residents and burning homes, according to the police and residents.

In the first attack, dozens of bandits rode into Yasore village in Batsari district around 0500 GMT, opening fire on residents and torching homes, said Katsina's police spokesman Gambo Isah.

"The bandits killed 10 people and wounded many others in the attack on the village," Isah said.

"They burnt houses and shops after stealing provisions," he added.

News of the attack was slow to emerge as Batsari is one of 13 districts affected by a telecom shutdown that local authorities have imposed in an effort to disrupt criminal activities.

Later the same day, around 100 bandits on motorcycles besieged Kuryan Madaro village in neighbouring Zamfara state, killing people and seizing money and mobile phones from residents.

"The bandits came in around 9:00 pm (20:00 GMT) and laid siege on the village, making escape difficult for the people," resident Hamisu Malami said.

"Some of them went door-to-door asking people to surrender their mobile phones and money and those who resisted were shot, including those who tried to flee," said Malami.

"They killed 14 people and injured many others," he said.

Malami spoke from the state capital Gusau where telecom service was restored last week.

His account was supported by another resident Bashiru Maiwada.

Police and officials in the state have not responded to inquiries about the incident.

Authorities suspended telecommunications last month in Zamfara, where most of the attacks take place, and parts of Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna states, to disrupt the criminal networks.

The gangs, who maintain camps in Rugu forest straddling those four states, have been increasingly targeting schools where they kidnap students for ransom.

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