Abuja - Gunmen suspected to be armed robbers attacked several villages in the remote state of Zamfara on Monday, killing at least 27 people, police and hospital officials said.
Police spokesman Sanusi Amirul said the robbers attacked the villagers on what police suspected to be a revenge mission, after some criminal gang members were arrested or killed and the gangs blamed the villagers for informing on them.
He said they were not suspected to be members of Islamist sect Boko Haram, which have infiltrated much of northern Nigeria, but have not plagued Zamfara.
"Twenty-seven persons have so far died. Eighteen were killed at Dangulbi village ... in Marua Local council, the others from surrounding villages of Diya, Guru and Sabo Kasuwa," said Abubakar Ahmed, a medic at Gusua hospital.
He added that eight were being treated with serious wounds.
Northern Nigeria is plagued by a violent Islamist insurgency, but a general break down of law and order has also created a window for armed gangs driven more by money than ideology to exploit.
Gunmen killed at least 60 people when they threw bombs and opened fire on a cattle market in remote northeastern Nigeria last month. It was never clear if the attackers were Islamists or armed criminals.