At least 34 people killed in attack on market town after failed cattle raid

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The Independent Online

At least 34 people were killed yesterday after a failed cattle raid in a northeast Nigeria market sparked a retaliatory attack by robbers angry that one of their colleagues had been burnt alive by herders.

The casualty figure could be higher from the attack in Potiskum, a town in Nigeria's Yobe state, as Muslim mourners often quickly bury their dead without taking bodies to the authorities.

The violence began on Wednesday, with witnesses saying that gunmen started shooting in the Potiskum market, trying to steal cattle. Three people at the market were said to have been killed, as a fourth man suspected to be part of the group of robbers was set alight and died of his burns.

Police confirmed the attack happened but gave no further details.

That night, the gunmen returned, firing at those living there and setting the market ablaze. Yesterday, the Potiskum General Hospital took in 34 corpses from the attack, an official there said.

Nwakpa O Nwakpa, a spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross, said at least 33 people were wounded in the attack and needed medical attention.

A spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said officials were trying to reach the town and offer assistance while taking a survey of the damage.

The attack does not appear to be the work of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram. Witnesses of Wednesday's attack said the robber burnt alive spoke Igbo, a language of Nigeria's Christian south-east.

The area is also part of a region that President Goodluck Jonathan put under emergency rule due to sectarian attacks. However, the cattle market attack shows the limits of the central government's powers in rural areas.