At least 30 women and children have drowned in Nigeria after their boats capsized while trying to escape a group of armed attackers.
The troubled region was the scene of violence on Wednesday after unidentified gunmen attacked the Birnin Waje community in Zamfara state.
The gunmen “started firing sporadically” in the attack that lasted for hours, a local source told Premium Times.
The gunmen had access to the community from the western end. But before they could get deeper into the community, some residents began fleeing to Zauma, a community across the river, according to the outlet.
Women and children tried to get across the river in boats. However, some of them drowned after two canoes capsized.
The exact number of fatalities remains unclear, but the newspaper claimed at least 30 women and children were killed.
“The situation is dire as most people have run away from their homes. The bodies recovered so far are 13,” a resident named Ibrahim Zauma said, according to AP News.
Ibrahim Bello, a spokesman for Zamfara’s government, confirmed the incident in a Facebook post, but did not reveal any details about the gunmen or arrests.
“Following a stampede aboard displaced persons fleeing pursued bandit terrorists at the Zauma ferry station, an unknown number, mostly women and children, drowned after two canoes capsized,” he noted.
Umar Birnin-Waje, a resident of the community, said he managed to escape the gunmen during the attack. Birnin-Waje believes nine women and children were buried after the drowning incident.
“The bandits came into the village around 6:45 am and they were there until 10 pm. I was hiding in a corner when the attack happened and there was no security to fend off the attack,” he told Channels television.
“You know Birnin Waje is a river community, when the bandits entered the village many people ran for safety so they boarded the canoe and the canoe sank. As I am talking to you now, we buried nine people and they are mostly women and children,” Birnin-Waje added.
The said attack came after reports of armed attackers ambushing communities in the northwestern and central parts of the country. According to officials, young herders had taken up arms and carried out such attacks because of clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and local communities over access to land and water.