FILE - A herdsman climbs a tree as his animals graze in the mining town of Zamfara, Nigeria, April 21, 2016. An armed gang attacked villages in the area Friday, killing more than 30 people.
FILE - A herdsman climbs a tree as his animals graze in the mining town of Zamfara, Nigeria, April 21, 2016. An armed gang attacked villages in the area Friday, killing more than 30 people.

BAUCHI, NIGERIA - An armed gang killed at least 34 people in attacks on villages in northwest Nigeria, police said Sunday, part of a wave of violence the government has blamed on bandits.

Hundreds of people have died in the northwest region this year, adding to security problems in a country already struggling with Islamist insurgencies in the northeast and a brutal conflict between farmers and herders in central states.

The armed gang came to unprotected villages in the northwestern state of Zamfara on Friday night, killing 34 people, said Muhammed Shehu, police spokesman for the state.

People from the village told Reuters the attackers escaped.

"We heard gunshots and saw people running for shelter, chased by men on motorbikes," said Shehu Shinkafi.

"We immediately took cover in a house nearby, and after the bandits were done with their killing spree they moved to a nearby village," he said, adding he counted 12 bodies in his village alone.

The gang left without any resistance as there were no security agents in the area, and it was hours after the massacre that police arrived, Shinkafi and two other witnesses said.