Gunmen attack kills at least 50 in Nigeria's Plateau state

At least 50 people were killed and dozens abducted by gunmen in Nigeria's Plateau state, residents and a community leader said on Monday, the latest in a spate of attacks by armed gangs in northern parts of Africa's most populous nation.

Such attacks are not common in Plateau, in central Nigeria. But the state shares a border with Kaduna state, where suspected bandits - a loose term for gangs of outlaws carrying out robberies and kidnappings - blew up train tracks, killed eight people and kidnapped dozens last month.

Fifteen soldiers were last week killed by gunmen who attacked a Kaduna army base

"This is again very sad and we strongly condemn it. The security (forces) should ensure the immediate rescue of all abducted persons," said Jonathan Ishaku, spokesman for Plateau Elders Forum.

He said at least 50 were dead and 70 people, including women and children, were kidnapped from nine villages late on Sunday afternoon.

A spokesman for Plateau Governor Simon Lalong said "many people were killed with houses and properties destroyed". He did not give a death toll.

Telephone service is patchy in most of Nigeria's rural areas, making it difficult for villagers to seek immediate help from security forces, who are stretched fighting an Islamist insurgency in the northeast.

Isahya Solomon from Kukawa, one of the village that was attacked, said when he heard shooting he fled with his family in a car and returned at night after the gunmen had left.

His house and several others had been torched while shops were looted and villagers were retrieving bodies of relatives, he told Reuters by phone on Monday from Jos, Plateau state's capital city.

"In our community ... 38 persons were killed. Many of our houses were burnt to ashes, many shops were looted," said Solomon.