A gang of cattle thieves have killed nine policemen in a shootout in Nigeria’s north-western Kebbi state, police told AFP Monday.
Northwest and central Nigeria are a hub for heavily armed criminal gangs of cattle thieves and kidnappers who raid villages, killing and abducting residents after looting and burning homes.
Police responded to a ‘distress call’ on Sunday from residents of Makuku village in Sakaba district that a criminal gang was in the area to steal their livestock.
The police deployed to the scene and engaged the bandits in a gun duel, Kebbi state police spokesman Nafiu Abubakar said.
‘We lost nine policemen in the encounter,’ said Abubakar, adding that the gang had ‘infiltrated’ the area from either from neighbouring Niger state or Zamfara state, both of which are known to have bandits’ hideouts.
Cattle thieves launch periodic attacks on villages in the area and then withdraw to their camps, said Abubakar.
‘We are working to beef up security along the border areas to prevent infiltration by the bandits,’ he said.
The gangs have recently stepped up attacks on schools, kidnapping students to squeeze ransoms from authorities and parents.
The criminals are driven by financial motives and have no ideological leanings, but there is growing concern that they are being infiltrated by jihadists from the northeast waging a 12-year old insurrection to establish an Islamic state.
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