Authorities have blamed the incidents on bandits, a loose term for kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers and other armed militia operating in the region who are largely motivated by money.
Since the well-publicised abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram Islamist militants in Borno state, more armed groups have resorted to mass abduction of students.
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the military to flush out criminals in Zamfara and the neighbouring states of Kaduna and Katsina.
Earlier this week, during a raid against a criminal gang, a Nigerian air force plane was shot down on the border of Zamfara and Kaduna states. The pilot survived the attack by ejecting from the plane and fleeing to safety.