KANO, NIGERIA - Gunmen at the weekend killed 17 people in the latest attack on villages in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state, witnesses and police said on Monday.
The assault came just days after 25 people were killed in similar raids on two villages in the region.
Gunmen on motorcycles stormed Magami village in the Maradun district area of the state on Saturday, shooting indiscriminately as residents fled.
"After the attack, we collected 17 dead bodies which we buried," Magami resident Kasimu Bello told AFP.
"The gunmen entered the village on several motorcycles, shooting people as they tried to flee," he said.
Another resident Umaru Bawa confirmed the attack, saying "the bandits pursued people like chickens and shot them dead as they ran into the bush."
Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said his operatives would arrest and "bring to justice the perpetrators of this dastardly act".
He also vowed to end the rampant armed attacks in the state.
On Wednesday, 25 people were killed when gunmen raided two villages in Birnin Magaji district of the state.
Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have for years been wracked by cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom, prompting villagers to form vigilante gangs as a protection force.
However the villagers too are accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected bandits, leading to tit-for-tat violence.
In April, troops were deployed to Zamfara to fight the gangs and police banned the civilian militia in an attempt to curb the cycle of reprisals.
Last month the police claimed to have killed 104 bandits in Birnin Magaji district during a clash in which 16 policemen were killed.
Early this month, an influential traditional ruler in the state called for civilian militia members to be given assault rifles to defend themselves.
The continued raids by cattle thieves in Zamfara and the resource conflict between farmers and herders in central Nigeria have added to Nigeria's security challenges as the military battles Boko Haram jihadists in the northeast.
Troops have repelled attacks on bases in northeast Nigerian Borno state where Boko Haram has in recent months targeted posts.
Late Friday troops fought off an attempt to over-run a base in the town of Damasak on the border with Niger after an hours-long fight in which one civilian was killed.
On Saturday, the troops also foiled jihadist attempts to take over two bases in Logomani near the border with Cameroon and the town of Gajiram.
Several jihadists were killed in the fight and their vehicles destroyed, sources said on condition of anonymity.