Robbers angered by a crowd burning one of their colleagues alive attacked a cattle market in north east Nigeria, killing at least 34 people in the latest violence fanning across the bloodied region, witnesses and an official said.
The casualty figure could be higher from the attack in Potiskum, a town in Nigeria's Yobe state, as Muslim mourners often quickly bury their dead without taking bodies to authorities.
Officials also offered differing death tolls and accounts of what happened, a sign of the confusion now gripping leaders across Nigeria's north as it faces increasing attacks from a radical Islamist sect responsible for hundreds of deaths this year alone.
The violence began on Wednesday, as witnesses said gunmen started shooting at the market in Potiskum, a city 350 miles north east of Nigeria's central capital, Abuja.
Three people were killed in the ensuing gunfire, which ended when the attackers ran out of ammunition, witnesses said.
All but one of the gunmen escaped. Those gathered in the market beat the gunmen left behind before dousing him in gasoline and lighting him on fire, a punishment still meted out by mobs in a nation where few trust the under-equipped and corrupt federal police force.
As the market closed for the night, the gunmen returned, setting fire to cattle holding pens and cars parked around the area.
By Thursday morning, only the metal skeletons of cars and the burnt ashes of the pens remained on the arid soil. Dead cattle, apparently hacked to death by attackers with machetes, lay atop the charred ground.
Potiskum General Hospital, the only major medical facility in the town, took in 34 corpses from the attack, an official there said. Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, a spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross, said at least 33 people were wounded in the attack and needed medical attention.
A spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said officials were trying to reach the rural town and offer assistance while taking a survey of the damage. Yobe state police spokesman Toyin Gbadegeshin said the toll in the attack might rise, as many of those wounded remained in serious condition after the attack.