A gang of cattle thieves killed 66 people in raids on seven villages in northwest Nigeria's Kebbi state, police told AFP Saturday.
Dozens of assailants on motorcycles attacked seven neighbouring villages in Danko-Wasagu district on Thursday, Kebbi state police spokesman Nafiu Abubakar said.
"We have established 66 people were killed in the attacks," which targeted Koro, Kimpi, Gaya, Dimi, Zutu, Rafin Gora and Iguenge villages, Abubakar said.
"Investigation is still going on to ascertain the extent of destruction wrought by the bandits and search for more bodies is still on," he added.
Policemen were deployed to the area to forestall further attacks while residents of the affected villages fled their homes, said Abubakar.
The assailants were believed to have launched the attacks from neighbouring Zamfara or Niger states where criminals are known to maintain camps.
In April nine policemen were killed in the area in a shootout with gunmen who invaded a village in nearby Sakaba district to steal livestock, Abubakar told AFP at the time.
Northwest and central Nigeria are a hub of criminal gangs of cattle thieves who raid villages, killing and abducting residents for ransom after looting and burning homes.
The gangs, called bandits by locals, maintain camps in Rugu forest which straddles Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.
Driven by financial motives, the criminals have no ideological leanings -- but there is growing concern they are being infiltrated by jihadists from the northeast waging a 12-year old insurgency to establish an Islamic state.
The gangs have recently stepped up attacks on schools, kidnapping hundreds of students to squeeze ransoms from authorities and parents.