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Cattle rustling, which has long afflicted northern Nigeria, has assumed a dangerous dimension in recent years, analysts say.

Authorities in Nigeria’s northwest Zamfara state have offered two cows for each gun surrendered to halt bloody attacks by criminal gangs, including cattle rustlers. Remote communities across the region have for years been hit hard by deadly raids from armed groups of motorcycle-riding cattle rustlers and kidnappers.

Military operations have failed to end the killings and local officials have repeatedly tried negotiations to broker peace. Zamfara governor Bello Matawalle on Thursday said that under the new initiative “for every rifle submitted by a repentant bandit, there would be compensation of two cows”. Matawalle said the offer of livestock was meant to convince the gangs, known as “bandits”, to disarm without cash payments that could be used to buy more arms.

Vigilante groups set up by local communities to defend themselves have been accused of extrajudicial killings that add to the spiral of killings.

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