Twenty villagers in Zamfara state in northwestern Nigeria were killed by a group of gunmen, the state police said Wednesday.

The attack against Tungar Kwana village was conducted by “bandits who see the rural residents as informants for the security agencies,” said Mohammed Shehu, spokesperson of the state police.

Last week, information provided by the villagers helped the security troops based in the state kill “many of” the nearby gunmen, according to Shehu.

“The gunmen see the villagers as a soft target to avenge the ongoing offensive against them,” Shehu said, adding the troops have launched a hunt to arrest those bandits and bring them to justice.

The Nigerian military has launched in recent years several operations in order to rid the country’s northwestern region of illegal gunmen groups.

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