No less than seven bodies were recovered and about a dozen people were missing after a boat carrying mostly women and children capsized in north-central Nigeria on Wednesday, residents said.

The passengers on the boat were said to be trying to escape from gunmen who had attacked their village in the Munya local government area.

Guni resident Kabiru Musa told Reuters by phone that his wife and 7-year-old child were among more than 20 people who boarded the wooden boat and they were missing.

“When we heard information that armed bandits were heading to our village, we immediately put our families on a boat in order to escape. Unfortunately, their boat capsized in the middle of the river,” he said.

Waziri Mu’azu, a primary school teacher who was part of the rescue team, said the victims were crossing to the other side of the Guni-Zumba River when the boat capsized. Seven bodies had been recovered so far, he said.

A Niger police spokesperson did not respond to calls and text messages on his phone seeking comment.

Recall that gangs known locally as bandits have been terrorising areas of  forcing thousands to flee and perpetrating mass kidnappings for ransom.

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