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Published: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 3:39:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 3:39:27 AM

Gunmen kill 18 in raid on village in Nigeria's 'middle belt'

JOS Nigeria (Reuters) - At least 18 people were killed when gunmen stormed a village in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna overnight, a police spokesman said on Tuesday, the latest in daily bloody attacks that have racked Africa's most populous country.

The gunmen raided the village in southern Kaduna - part of Nigeria's volatile "middle belt" where the mostly Christian south and largely Muslim north meet - late on Monday night, spokesman Aminu Lawan told Reuters.

"There was an attack and by our records 18 people were killed," he said.

Security forces are also investigating a possible mass kidnapping of villagers in the northeast state of Borno where Boko Haram Islamist militants abducted more than 200 schoolgirls two months ago, a security source told Reuters.

If confirmed, the abduction would fuel public frustration over the government's inability to quell Boko Haram's five-year campaign to carve out an Islamist state in the north.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the killings in Kaduna, 560 km (350 miles) southwest of Borno state, which demonstrate once again the inability of the government to protect rural areas from suspected militants.

Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in bomb and gun attacks, initially focused on government and security targets, as well as churches and Muslim leaders that rejected its brand of Islam.

But recently it has increasingly targeted civilians, emboldened by global publicity after it kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school in the remote Borno village of Chibok in April.

Military officials are looking into reports that suspected Islamist insurgents over the weekend raided at least three villages in Borno, the security source said.

Two residents of the Borno village of Lassa, which wasn't attacked, told Reuters they spoke to people who reportedly fled as militants killed men and kidnapped "many" women and children.

Nigerian media reported that as many as 91 villagers had been abducted, most of them women and young girls. Reuters was unable to verify these accounts independently.

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as "Western education is sinful" has killed thousands since 2009. Amnesty International estimates about 1,500 people have been killed in northeast Nigeria in the first three months of this year.

At least eight people were killed and 20 wounded by an explosion at a college campus in the heart of the northern city of Kano during school hours on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Lanre Ola; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Sonya Hepinstall)

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