Suspected jihadists carried out several attacks in northwestern Nigeria over the weekend, leaving over 40 people dead.

Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the attacks at the Wednesday General Audience, and called for the safety of all Nigerians to be protected.

“I pray for those who have died, for the wounded, and for the entire people of Nigeria,” he said. “I hope that the safety of all citizens in the country will always be guaranteed,” added the Pope.

An initial attack took place on Sunday in the village of Madamai in Kaura district, where 34 residents were murdered and 7 others injured, according to the security chief of Kaduna State.

The official said soldiers were dispatched to the scene of the attack, where they exchanged gunfire with the assailants before forcing the jihadist militants to retreat.

A later statement from the same official said militants carried out another attack “in retaliation” on the village of Kacecere, where 8 people were killed, 6 others were wounded, and several houses destroyed.

Separately, the Nigerian military said suspected militants from the so-called Islamic State in West Africa attacked a military base in Sokoto State, also on Sunday.

Troops repelled the attack, but local residents told the AFP news agency that 17 soldiers were killed.

Northwestern and Central Nigeria has endured several years of violence, with herders and farmers competing for natural resources. Sporadic violence by heavily armed bandits often lead to endless reprisals between communities.

Nigeria is a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need projects work – with support for priests, Sisters, seminarians, catechists and church buildings, Christian education and media work, as well as emergency aid for persecuted faithful.