At least 40 people have died and dozens were injured in raids by armed bandits in eight remote Nigerian villages, the emergency services said on Thursday.
Groups of gunmen riding motorcycles stormed into the farming and herding villages in Shiroro district of central Niger state on Sunday, firing indiscriminately and stealing cattle."For now, 40 bodies have been recovered," Niger State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) spokesman Ibrahim Audu Hussein said.
"Search and rescue teams are still recovering bodies in the bush and the final toll will be announced later," he said.
Dozens of people were injured in the raids which forced over 2,000 villagers out of their homes, he added.
Hussein said the bandits took away hundreds of herds of cattle from the villages.
The villages include Kwaki, Ajatayi, Gwassa, Barden Dawaki, Alewa and Sarkin Pawa.
News of the attacks was slow to emerge due to the "difficult terrain" and poor telecommunication in the area, said Salihu Garba, another emergency official.The bandits are believed to have launched the attacks from Rugu forest which straddles Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.
Kidnapping and cattle rustling gangs have been terrorising communities in states in the country's northwest but attacks in Niger state are rare.