Gunmen from criminal gangs have killed 13 Islamic seminary pupils during a ceremony celebrating the birth of Prophet Mohammed in northwest Nigeria’s Katsina state, a local official said Tuesday. Katsina is one of several states in northwestern and central Nigeria terrorised by criminal gangs, locally known as bandits, who raid villages, kill and abduct residents as well as burn homes after looting them.The gangs, who maintain camps in huge forests straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states, have been notorious for mass kidnappings of students from schools in recent years. Several gunmen on motorcycles stormed Kusa village in Musawa district at around 2130 GMT on Sunday, opening fire on schoolchildren celebrating Maulud in the centre of the village, Habibu Abdulkadir, political administrator for Musawa district, told AFP by phone. “The bandits opened fire on the gathering of pupils during recitations, they killed 13 of them and injured 20 others,” Abdulkadir said. Five of the injured were treated in the hospital in Musawa, while the other 15 whose injuries were more severe were taken to a bigger medical facility in the state capital Katsina, 100 kilometres (more than 60 miles) away, he said. “Our local vigilantes deployed in the village and confronted the bandits, forcing them to flee into the bush,” Abdulkadir said. He added that the vigilantes’ arrival prevented the attackers from abducting other pupils at the ceremony.Violence in northwest Nigeria has its roots in conflict between nomadic herders and settled farmers over land and resources, but it has spiralled into wider criminality.Settlements form self-defence vigilante groups to protect villages and gangs carry out tit-for-tat reprisals on rival communities, often including mass abductions for ransom or leverage. A police spokesman confirmed the Katsina incident but said 18 people were injured in the attack, two of whom died later in hospital. In December 2020, bandits kidnapped 80 pupils of an Islamic seminary returning to Mahuta village from a Maulud celebration in a neighbouring community in Dandume district. The children were rescued by police and residents after a gunfight at the bandits’ hideout, police said at the time. Banditry and kidnapping are just some of the challenges facing President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who came to power in May promising to tackle insecurity from criminal gangs, jihadists and other armed groups.