Reports from Nigeria’s north-western state of Kebbi say gunmen on motorbikes killed at least 63 people in Zuru area in a Sunday night attack.

A village head in Takita, Umaru Garba, told the BBC that all those killed were members of vigilante groups who were chasing after the gunmen.

The incident is one of the deadliest involving local vigilante groups set up by communities to deal with armed gangs in the country’s northern region.

The gunmen had stolen cattle and kidnapped a number of people in the attack. The vigilantes had mobilised from at least five villages in order to rescue the animals and the abductees when they were ambushed.

A vigilante leader said all the 63 victims were buried on Monday.

An unknown number of gunmen were also killed during the clashes, according to residents.

The Nigerian police spokesperson for Kebbi state, Nafiu Abubakar, told the BBC that the gunmen, locally known as bandits, were fleeing military operations in the neighbouring Niger state.

He said they were still gathering details on the exact number of victims.

Armed criminal gangs frequently carry out killings, kidnappings for ransom and cattle theft across Nigeria particularly in the north of the country.