No fewer than 17 people have been killed after a group of armed men attacked two villages in Niger State.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Ahmed Matane, confirmed the incident to Channels Television on Monday.
While the attack left three others injured, the whereabouts of about 18 villagers are unknown. They were said to have been abducted by the gunmen.
The affected villages – MazaKuka and Kulhu villages – are located in Mashegu Local Government Area (LGA) of the state.
Matane explained that the gunmen killed 16 people in a mosque in MazaKuka and another one person in Kaboji village.
The assailants, he stated, stormed MazaKuka in large numbers with dangerous weapons and went on a rampage, shooting sporadically.
According to the SSG, the victims in MazaKuka were killed very early on Monday morning while performing Subhi prayers inside the mosque.
The wounded and the abducted persons were among the faithful observing the prayers.
Although MazaKuka and Kulhu villages are in Niger, they share borders with Kainji Lake Forest where bandits are said to have been taking advantage of the porous nature of the forest to attack innocent people at will and take cover.
Matane disclosed that the state government has since deployed a team of military personnel to the area to flush out bandits hiding in the forest.
In his reaction, a former member of the Niger State House of Assembly who represented Mashegu constituency, Abdulkarim MazaKuka, called for a concerted effort to defeat banditry in the state and the country at large.
Chairman of Mashegu LGA, Alhassan MazaKuka, on his part, described the attack as devastating.
He also confirmed that one of those who were fatally injured has been referred to the IBB Specialist Hospital for medical attention.