At least 30 women and children have drowned in Nigeria after their boats capsized as they were trying to escape from a group of armed attackers.
The troubled region saw violence Wednesday after unidentified gunmen launched an attack on the Birnin Waje community in Zamfara state.
The gunmen “started shooting sporadically” in the attack that went on for hours, a local source told Premium Times.
The gunmen accessed the community from the western end. But before they could get deeper into the community, some residents began fleeing toward Zauma, a community across the river, according to the outlet.
Women and children tried to get to the other side of the river in boats. However, some of them fatally drowned after two canoes capsized.
The exact number of fatalities remains unclear, but the outlet claimed that at least 30 women and children lost their lives.
“The situation is dire because most of the people have run away from their homes. The dead bodies recovered so far is 13,” a resident named Ibrahim Zauma said, as per AP News.
Ibrahim Bello, a Zamfara government spokesman, confirmed the incident in a Facebook post but did not reveal any details about the gunmen or whether any arrests were made.
“Following an onboard stampede of displaced persons running from pursuing bandit terrorists at Zauma ferry station, an unknown number of mostly women and children got drowned after two canoes capsized,” he noted.
Umar Birnin-Waje, a resident of the community, said he managed to escape from the gunmen during the attack. Birnin-Waje believes nine women and children were buried following the drowning incident.
“The bandits entered the village around fifteen minutes to six and they were there till 10 p.m., I hid in one corner when the attack happened and there was no security to repel the attack,” he told Channels Television.
“You know Birnin Waje is a riverine community, when the bandits enter the village, many people ran for safety, so they boarded canoe and the canoe sank. As I am talking to you now, we have buried nine people and they’re mostly women and children,” Birnin-Waje added.
The said attack took place following reports of armed assailants ambushing communities in the northwest and central regions of the country. Young pastoralists had taken up arms and launched such attacks due to clashes between the herdsmen of the Fulani tribe and local communities over access to land and water, according to officials.