Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Gunmen killed at least 18 people in Nigeria's northwestern state of Zamfara this week over what might have began as a dispute over stolen cattle, police said Friday.
Police spokesman Muhammad Shehu said an armed gang ambushed a village in Zamfara and carried out the attack after a suspected cow thief was caught by locals and then escaped on Tuesday.
"The herder abandoned the animals and escaped into the bush," Shehu said, according to the Premium Times. "But unknown to the hunters, the cattle rustler went to Isah Local Government Area of Sokoto State and mobilized bandits to attack the hunters."
The next day, the alleged cattle rustler returned with the "bandits and ambushed the hunters in the bush and there was a clash that led to fatality on both sides," Shehu said.
"Local people were attacked by unidentified gunmen and a security investigation has launched about the incident," he said, according to Andalou Agency.
Although 18 bodies were recovered after the clash, the death toll may be higher.
"It is believed that the bandits took away their own members that were killed," Shehu said.