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At least 1,100 villagers killed in Nigeria this year: Amnesty

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Activists of Amnesty International demonstrate to show their support with the Syrian people at the Fontaine des Innocentes in Paris in this May 29, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Julien Muguet

More than 1,100 villagers have been killed this year by armed gangs in several states across central and northwest Nigeria, where raids have escalated, Amnesty International said in a report Monday.

“The Nigerian authorities have left rural communities at the mercy of rampaging gunmen who have killed at least 1,126 people in the north of the country since January,” the rights watchdog said, giving a tally until the end of June.

The killings, during attacks by “bandits” or armed cattle rustlers, and in clashes between herders and farming communities for access to land, have been recurrent for several years.

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Amnesty said it had interviewed civilians in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states, who reported living in fear of attacks and abductions.

“Terrifying attacks on rural communities in the north of Nigeria have been going on for years,” said Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

“The ongoing failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers from these predictable attacks is utterly shameful,” he added.

Amnesty blamed both state authorities and the federal government for failing to protect the population.

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Armed groups loot and set fire to villages and frequently kidnap people for ransom, apparently with no ideological motive. Many experts have recently warned against associating the attackers with jihadist groups active in the region.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on a campaign promise to eradicate the jihadist group Boko Haram, which has killed tens of thousands since it launched an insurgency in northeast Nigeria in 2009.

Ojigho decried reported abuse of civilians who asked for more official help and protection.

“In their response to these attacks, the Nigerian authorities have displayed gross incompetence and a total disregard for people’s lives,” he said.

“Arresting people who dare to ask for help is a further blow.”

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