At least 34 killed by gunmen

Robbers angered by a crowd burning one of their colleagues alive attacked a cattle market in northeast Nigeria, killing at least 34 people in the latest violence fanning across the bloodied region, witnesses and an official said Thursday.

POTISKUM, Nigeria — Robbers angered by a crowd burning one of their colleagues alive attacked a cattle market in northeast Nigeria, killing at least 34 people in the latest violence fanning across the bloodied region, witnesses and an official said Thursday.

The casualty figure could be higher from the attack in Potiskum, a town in Nigeria’s Yobe state, as Muslim mourners often quickly bury their dead without taking bodies to authorities.

Officials also offered differing death tolls and accounts of what happened, a sign of the confusion now gripping leaders across Nigeria’s north as it faces increasing attacks from a radical Islamist sect responsible for hundreds of deaths this year alone.

The violence began Wednesday, as witnesses said gunmen started shooting at the market in Potiskum, a city 575 kilometres (350 miles) northeast of Nigeria’s central capital, Abuja. Three people were killed in the ensuing gunfire, which ended when the attackers ran out of ammunition, witnesses said.

All but one of the gunmen escaped. Those gathered in the market beat the gunmen left behind before dousing him in gasoline and lighting him on fire, a punishment still meted out by mobs in a nation where few trust the under-equipped and corrupt federal police force.

As the market closed for the night, the gunmen returned, setting fire to cattle holding pens and cars parked around the area.

By Thursday morning, only the metal skeletons of cars and the burnt ashes of the pens remained on the arid soil. Dead cattle, apparently hacked to death by attackers with machetes, lay atop the charred ground.

Potiskum General Hospital, the only major medical facility in the town, took in 34 corpses from the attack, an official there said.

An Associated Press journalist later saw about a dozen charred corpses lining an open-air morgue, with mourners and the curious outside pressing against windows looking in at the dead.

Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, a spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross, said at least 33 people were wounded in the attack and needed medical attention.

A spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said officials were trying to reach the rural town and offer assistance while taking a survey of the damage.

Yobe state police spokesman Toyin Gbadegeshin said the toll in the attack might rise, as many of those wounded remained in serious condition after the attack.

Confusion surrounded how many people were killed in the attack. Abdullahi Bego, a spokesman for Yobe state Gov. Ibrahim Gaidam, said those in the market told authorities at least 60 people died in the attack.

Security forces in Nigeria traditionally offer lower death tolls to downplay the severity of attacks, while politicians and activists give higher tolls to get more relief materials and government funding.

Gbadegeshin also blamed the attacks on the Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, which is waging an increasingly bloody sectarian fight in Nigeria.

Witnesses of Wednesday’s attack, however, said the robber burned alive by the angry crowd begged for his life in Igbo, a language of Nigeria’s Christian southeast.

Boko Haram, blamed for more than 480 killings this year alone, has carried out attacks in Potiskum before. The area is also part of a region that President Goodluck Jonathan put under emergency rule due to sect attacks, which gives military and police additional powers. However, the cattle market attack shows the limits of power the nation’s weak central government faces in dealing with violence in its rural lands.

Cattle raids remain common across the north, as herdsmen lead teams across the arid plains to market. While attacks there often cuts across ethnic and religious lines, the root of the violence often comes back to grazing rights and political power. The markets also see buyers carry hundreds of dollars in cash at one time in Nigeria’s impoverished north, a lucrative target for armed robbers.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

EDMONTON — Alberta’s COVID-19-era budget made a hard landing Thursday with an… Continue reading

The expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has been discussed for over a decade. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital expansion gets about $6 million in 2021 provincial budget

According to the government’s three-year plan, the project will get $59 million by 2024.

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell is hoping to pick up where he left off last season as the 2020-21 WHL season kicks off Friday in Red Deer against the Medicine Hat Tigers. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels set to host Tigers in WHL season opener

24-game WHL Alberta only season kicks off night Friday at the Centrium

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano tries to help goaltender David Rittich stop a shot from Ottawa Senators right wing Drake Batherson during first-period NHL action Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

Team Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson reacts to her shot against Team Quebec at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

FILE - New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist reacts after a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in New York, in this Sunday, March 1, 2020, file photo. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 5-3. Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist will sit out the upcoming NHL season because of a heart condition, announcing the news a little more than two months after joining the Washington Capitals. Lundqvist posted a written statement and a videotaped one on social media Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, saying it was a "pretty tough and emotional day." The 38-year-old from Sweden was bought out by the New York Rangers after 15 seasons and signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with Washington in October. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa holds up water collected from Neskantaga First Nation, where residents were evacuated over tainted water in October, during a rally at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

Most Read