Dozens of people have been killed in a flareup of violence in three Nigerian regions, security officials and local sources said Tuesday.
In the southeastern state of Rivers, eight people were killed early Monday when armed men attacked the village of Emohua in the Ogoni region, said local chief Sunny Odum.
State police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni said the attack was a "cult-related incident," a term typically denoting gangs or criminals who are hired for political gain and often blend belief or black-magic rituals in their acts.
In the northern state of Katsina, 14 people were killed on Sunday in clashes between cattle thiefs and a civilian militia armed by the government to support the security forces, police said.
The fighting took place in Tsamiyar Jino, in Kankara region, claiming the lives of seven rustlers and seven vigilantes, said Katsina police spokeman Gambo Isa.
"The volunteers went into the forest and engaged the bandits despite being warned by the police never to confront the bandits on their own... because of the sophisticated weapons the bandits have and their good knowledge of the terrain," Isa said.
In contrast, village chief Jaafaru Bello told AFP 36 people had been killed by the thieves and people were afraid to retrieve the bodies.
Local resident Usman Abdullahi, a Tsamiyar Jino resident said around 100 vigilantes from surrounding villages had stormed the bandits' hideout but were outgunned and had been forced to retreat "in disarray".
Cattle theft is a chronic, and frequently violent, problem in the states of Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger, and thieves are acquiring more and more sophisticated weapons.
Last week, at least 50 people were killed in Zamfara, the worst-hit state.
Separately, the Nigerian media on Tuesday reported that 20 people had been massacred in the region of Kajuru, in Kaduna state, in fighting between crop farmers and nomadic herders.
A state police spokesman confirmed the incident but declined to give further immediate details.