More than 100 people, including women and children, were kidnapped when gunmen raided four villages in Nigeria's northwestern Zamfara state on Sunday, the information commissioner and residents said on Monday.
Kidnapping has become endemic in northwest Nigeria as gangs of armed men abduct people from villages, highways and farms and demand ransom money from their relatives.
More than 40 people were kidnapped from Kanwa village in the Zamfara district of Zamfara, Zamfara information commissioner Ibrahim Dosara and a local resident said.
The resident said that another 37, mostly women and children were taken into the Kwabre community in the same local government area and declined to be named for security reasons.
The bandits have split themselves into two groups and attacked the community, and now the village of Kanwa is deserted. The Kanwa village resident said they kidnapped children aged between 14 and 16 years and women.
In the Yankaba and Gidan Goga communities of the Maradun Local Government area, 38 people were kidnapped while working on their farms, residents said.
Information Commissioner Dosara accused the gunmen of using abductees as human shields against air raids from the military.
Nigerian forces have launched a series of air strikes in Zamfara and other troubled northern states, neutralizing many insurgents and dislodging them from their hideouts in the region's vast forest reserves.
The country's military has come under criticism after some of its air raids were found to have caused civilian deaths.
Last month, Nigeria's Air Force said it was reviewing all allegations of accidental air strikes on civilians as well as reviewing the circumstances leading to such strikes.