Some 200 people have been buried in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara state following a wave of vicious attacks by gangs of gunmen over a number of days.
Speaking to media outlets, survivors told the BBC that motorbike-riding gangsters ambushed a village after another, shooting indiscriminately.
The attacks are believed to be in response to military air strikes on Monday that pushed out some of the criminal gangs from their forest hideouts.
For almost a decade, the groups have dominated Zamfara and neighboring states.
Locally referred to as bandits, the gangs (now labelled terrorist groups) are sophisticated networks of criminals who operate across large swathes of territory, mostly stealing animals, abducting for ransom and killing those who dare confront them.
Last week, the government officially classified bandits as terrorists, allowing security forces to inflict tougher sanctions on the groups and their supporters.
By Friday, it had been reported that over 100 people had been murdered by alleged bandit militants in the region, after some 300 gunmen on motorbikes arrived in as many as nine communities between Tuesday and Thursday night.
During the ambushes, gunmen torched homes and mutilated the bodies of their victims.
One villager, Idi Musa, told the AFP news agency that the attackers also escaped with 2,000 cattle.
A mouthpiece of the Humanitarian Affairs Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq told AFP that over 200 people had been laid to rest.
She further confirmed that over 10,000 people had been left homeless with many others still missing.
At the same time, officials in neighboring Kebbi state revealed that bandits had released another 30 schoolchildren and a teacher who had been held for six months. It is still unclear whether ransom was paid for their release.
In Nigeria, kidnapping for ransom is a huge criminal enterprise. A story that has baffled the masses is one of a father in a state bordering Zamfara to the east, who has been removing the roof of his house to sell the metal sheeting to raise a ransom of about $250 (£180) for his son.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed that the state will not relent in its battle with the “outlaws”.
“The latest attacks on innocent people by the bandits is an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from our military forces,” Buhari said.
According to Nigeria’s armed forces,they had killed 537 “armed bandits and other criminal elements” in the region and arrested 374 others since May last year.