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88 victims of northwest Nigeria attack laid to rest

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Villagers bury the victims of an attack by a gang of cattle thieves on seven villages in northwest Nigeria's Kebbi state.

The horrific attack left at least 88 people dead, police said.

Kebbi state police spokesman Nafiu Abubakar said, dozens of assailants on motorcycles attacked seven neighboring villages in Danko-Wasagu district on Thursday.

The gunmen targeted the villages of Koro, Kimpi, Gaya, Dimi, Zutu, Rafin Gora and Iguenge.

Many people were still unaccounted for Sunday after fleeing the attacks.

The police spokesman said the search is underway and more bodies could be found.

‘’So, the toll is not conclusive yet’’, Abubakar added.

Northwest and central Nigeria are a hub of criminal gangs known locally as bandits, who raid villages, harass residents and burn down homes.

Notorious gangs

The gangs maintain camps in Rugu forest which borders Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.

Nigeria's security forces, who are also battling a more than decade-long jihadist insurgency in the northeast of the country, are being stretched to their limit.

Gangs in the northwest have recently increased attacks on schools, kidnapping hundreds of students to  get ransoms from authorities and parents.

More than 700 children and students have already been kidnapped by gunmen for ransom since December, often from schools in remote areas, where pupils live in dormitories with little security protection.

State authorities in Niger state said they were negotiating with gunmen who seized 136 children from an Islamic seminary last weekend.

The attackers released 11 of the pupils who were "too small and couldn't walk" very far, the authorities previously said.

Nearly 700,000 people have been internally displaced in northwest and north central Nigeria in February, according to the UN's migration agency IOM, as a result of violence.