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Gunmen Kill 34 in Northwest Nigeria, Official Says

FILE - A policeman stands guard in Kaduna State, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2019.

Gunmen killed 34 people, including two soldiers, in northwest Nigeria's Kaduna State in the latest attack blamed on heavily armed criminal gangs, local authorities said Tuesday.

More than 200 homes were destroyed in Sunday's attack on four villages in the Kaura local government district, Kaduna State security commissioner Samuel Aruwan said in a statement on his Facebook page.

"Security agencies have reported to the Kaduna State Government that after search operations and detailed checks, 34 people have been confirmed dead following Sunday's attack in Kaura local government area," he said.

Northwest and central Nigeria have long been terrorized by criminal gangs, known locally as bandits, who raid villages, conduct mass kidnappings for ransom and steal cattle, but attacks and abductions have intensified.

Sunday's attack came on the same day as another raid that killed 16 people in a remote village in northwestern Zamfara State.

A week earlier, gunmen killed 11 security personnel, including seven policemen and four vigilantes, in attacks in central and northwestern Nigeria.

The gangs who were officially declared terrorists by the government in January operate from camps hidden in a vast forest across Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.

Bandit violence in Nigeria's northwest is just one challenge facing security forces, who are also battling against a 12-year jihadist insurgency in the northeast and separatist tensions in the southeast of the country.