Abuja, Nigeria - Authorities in Nigeria's Katsina state have launched a joint security operation after 41 people were killed when a vigilante group clashed with bandits who attacked their village.
This is the latest violence ahead of the February 25 presidential and parliamentary election where insecurity has become a major concern of voters.
Katsina state police spokesman Gambo Isah said that, as of Saturday, a joint security team that includes the military, air force and police were still searching for the perpetrators.
The bandits are believed to be holed up in the nearby Yargoje Forest, where many of the victims were found.
50 cows, 30 sheep stolen
The local vigilante group known as Yankasai was drawn from 11 communities in the Bakori area, where bandits stole 50 cows and 30 sheep before fleeing into the bush.
The vigilante group traced the suspects to the Yargoje Forest to recover the animals but were ambushed by the bandits, killing 41 and injuring two others.
'Our men are still there and as I am speaking with you presently an operation is ongoing,' Isah told Voice of America by phone. 'But I cannot say there is no arrest being made but we're waiting for the result of that operation.'
The bodies of slain vigilantes have been recovered and taken to the mortuary. The injured are being treated at the Kankara General Hospital.
Crime a concern
Katsina state is the home state of Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, and one of the most affected by growing violence perpetrated by armed gangs in northwest Nigeria.
Attacks in the region have led to criticism of Buhari's eight-year tenure built on a promise to fix insecurity in Nigeria.
The Katsina state special adviser on security said the village attack and the killings have sparked outrage in the community. Authorities have called for calm.
Last week, Katsina state residents hurled stones at the president's motorcade during his visit to commission projects started by the state's governor.