Fighting between militiamen and the bandits erupted after the raid on the village of Gwaska, in northwestern Kaduna state, on Saturday, according to Agence France-Press.
“There was violence between the militias, who are very powerful, and bandits,” said Kaduna’s state police chief, Austin Iwar.
An unnamed vigilante told AFP that he believed the bandits to be from neighboring Zamfara state. “The 45 bodies were found scattered in the bush. The bandits pursued residents who mobilized to defend the village after overpowering them,” he said, adding that children were among those killed. “They burnt down many homes,” he said.
Thirteen people were killed last week in Zamfara in fighting between cattle thieves and local civilian militia. Cattle rustlers and kidnapping gangs have long plagued rural herding communities in the state with killings, robberies, and arson.
Nigeria’s security forces are stretched thin as the country tackles Boko Haram jihadists in the north and pirates in the south. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been criticized for his failure to quell the violence, which will be a key issue in the 2019 presidential elections.