On the eve of Nigeria's general elections, at least 66 people have been confirmed killed in attacks across eight settlements in the country's northwest, officials said Friday.
Samuel Aruwan, spokesman for the state governor, said the violence occurred on Thursday in Kajuru in the Kaduna state, an area long gripped by armed bandits or religious zealotry.
"Security agencies today reported the recovery of 66 bodies killed in attacks by criminal elements on various dispersed hamlets in the Maro Gida and Iri axis of Kajuru," Aruwan said in a statement.
"The government condemns the attacks and commiserates with the families of the victims. Security agencies have been deployed to the area and arrests have been made," he said.
Aruwan called for calm and urged residents to avoid reprisals, suggesting the violence may be communal.
"Among the victims were 22 children and 12 women," state Gov. Nasir El-Rufai said in a statement.
Police have yet to issue any statement on the development, which came just hours before the country's general elections begin nationwide.