By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ABUJA (Worthy News) - Funeral services have been held in northwest Nigeria's Kaduna State after gunmen killed 34 Christians, local residents told Worthy News late Wednesday.
Authorities blamed the latest attack on heavily armed criminal gangs, though Christians in the region have also expressed concerns about rising Islamic extremism.
More than 200 homes were destroyed since Sunday’s violence erupted in four villages in the Kaura local government district, said Kaduna State security commissioner Samuel Aruwan.
"Security agencies have reported to the Kaduna State Government after search operations and detailed checks. Some 34 people have been confirmed dead following Sunday's attack in Kaura local government area," he said.
Additionally, some 32 shops were burnt, and three vehicles and 17 motorcycles were vandalized, residents said.
Northwest and central Nigeria have long been terrorized by criminal gangs, known locally as bandits, who raid villages, conduct mass kidnappings for ransom and steal cattle.
Most of the increased attacks and abductions involve gunmen with an Islamic background, Christians say. Sunday's attack came on the same day as another raid that reportedly killed 16 people in a remote village in northwestern Zamfara State.
A week earlier, shooters killed 11 security personnel, including seven police officers and four vigilantes, in attacks in central and northwestern Nigeria, news reports said.
The gangs who were officially declared terrorists by the government in January operate from camps hidden in a vast forest across Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, and Niger states.
Bandit violence in Nigeria's northwest comes while government forces also battle in a 12-year conflict against jihadists seeking to create an Islamic caliphate in the country's north.
Worthy News obtained the names of the killed Christians in Sunday’s violence, including men and women.
Seven people were injured and are receiving treatment, Christians said.
One of the victims was identified as Anita Dauda. “In 2016, Anita was a victim of another Kagoro massacre.
She survived by the whiskers and needed multiple surgeries” with the help of rescuers, Christians said.
Yet “on Sunday, March 20, she became a double victim and was riddled with bullets. Sadly, she didn't make it,” they added.
Another Christian woman, identified as Abigail Joshua from the Adan community, remained missing Wednesday, sources said.
Up to 70,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria within nearly two decades in attacks by Boko Haram terrorists or other arms-wielding gangs, say human rights investigators.