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KANO: Gunmen have killed 17 people including five policemen in separate attacks in northwest Nigeria’s Katsina state in the latest wave of violence in the region, police and a local official said Thursday.

Northwest and central Nigeria are a hub of criminal gangs known locally as bandits who raid villages, killing or abducting residents after looting and burning homes.

The criminals, who maintain camps in a vast forest straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states, were declared terrorists by Nigeria’s government in January.

Late on Wednesday a group of around 300 bandits on motorcycles attacked a police post near Gatakawa village in Kankara district, killing five policemen, local police spokesman Gambo Isah said.

“We lost five policemen in (a) gunfight with the bandits in an effort to prevent them from raiding Gatakawa village,” Isah said.

The attackers also killed three civilians from the village, he added.

Separately, at least nine people died between Tuesday and Wednesday in attacks on four villages in neighbouring Faskari district blamed on the same gang, local official Musa Ado said.

“Four villages were attacked and a total of nine people were killed, with Ruwan Godiya village losing six people,” Ado said.

“A person was killed in each of the other three villages where the bandits looted livestock and other supplies,” he added.

Bandits have intensified attacks in Katsina state, operating from hideouts in neighbouring Zamfara state which is their stronghold.

Pakistani kidnapped in Nigeria recovered after three months

Although the gangs are motivated by financial gains with no ideological leaning, Nigerian officials are concerned about possible ties with militants making inroads from the northeast where they are waging a 13-year insurgency.

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