Using explosives and assorted guns, the gunmen attacked the market around 6p.m.
The attack was believed to be in revenge for an incident earlier in the day, when traders fought off a gang which tried to rob the market. Police and residents said a member of the gang was caught and doused in petrol before a tyre was placed around his neck and he was burnt to death.
Residents described a terrifying scene at the market usually crowded with traders, with scores of cattle burnt, the market razed and dozens of people killed.
A resident said firefighters were at the scene on Thursday morning searching wells out of fears that residents had fallen in and drowned while trying to flee.
Residents crowded a local hospital to determine if their relatives were among the dead.
The gang had sought to use a well-known technique of causing panic at markets and forcing traders to flee so that they could steal their goods.
The spokesman for the state police command, Mr. Toyin Gbadegeshin, confirmed the incident, saying, “At 18.00 hours, gunmen using assorted rifles and explosive devices attacked the cattle market in Potiskum.
“Over 20 explosive devices and assorted guns were used in the attack on the market.
“As at now, we cannot ascertain the number of casualties but there were deaths and some of those wounded are receiving treatment.”
Gbadegeshin said the police recovered one AK-47 rifle from the scene of the attack.
“Thirty-four bodies were deposited at the hospital,” the emergency official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly. He said the toll was likely to be more than 50 dead because families were also burying relatives’ bodies without bringing them to the hospital while about 22 other people were being treated for injuries.
Also on Wednesday, unknown gunmen killed a police corporal at Kawo in Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano State.
An eyewitness told the News Agency of Nigeria in Kano on Thursday that the incident happened at 8p.m when the gunmen trailed the policeman to his residence.
“They trailed him to his house on a motorcycle around 8p.m and shot him dead in front of his house,” the source said.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Magaji Majiya, confirmed the incident.
Majiya said the gunmen trailed the deceased to his house and killed him, adding that investigation into the case had since commenced.
Wednesday’s attacks were the latest in a string of killings and bombings in parts of the North in the past few days.
Last Thursday, Boko Haram attacked the Abuja office of ThisDay Newspapers and the offices of ThisDay, Sunand Moment newspapers in Kaduna, killing eight persons.
On Sunday, two professors – Jerome Ayodele and Andrew Leo Ogbonyomi – and 13 other Christian worshippers were killed in coordinated attacks at the Bayero University, Kano. Also killed in the attacks was a senior non-accademic member of staff, Mr. Sylvester Adah.
The attacks took place at the Indoor Sports Hall, where the Catholic faithful in the university had their Sunday mass, and an open air theatre where Protestants worshipped.
Also on Sunday, Boko Haram gunmen killed a pastor and some worshippers at a church in Maiduguri.
On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked the convoy of the Taraba State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mamman Sule, as he made his way to the office in the state capital, Jalingo.