Jos – At least seven people have been killed in the Nigerian state of Plateau where tit-for-tat violence between Muslim herders and Christian farmers often flares, a community leader and a security official said on Sunday.
Residents of Chando Zerreci village in Bassa area were celebrating an annual festival on Saturday night when they were attacked by gunmen, the leader and the security source said.
Jos City in central Plateau State, on the dividing line between Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north and mainly Christian south, has struggled with ethnic and religious violence though it has been calmer in recent years.
“Chando Zerreci was attacked last night by Fulani militia where 10 People were confirmed killed,” said Davidson Malison, a spokesperson for the Christian farm communities of the Irigwe people.
A security official confirmed the attack but said seven people had been killed.
Malison said two more people were killed by gunmen on Sunday morning.
A local leader of Fulani herders, Malam Nuru Abdullahi, denied attacking the Irigwe, saying instead two Fulanis had been killed along with 90 cows.
A spokesman of the joint security task force in the area, Major Ishaku Takwa, said only seven persons were killed.
“Our troops received a report of the attack at about 12 o’clock midnight during Irigwe annual festival at Tafi Gana Village,” he said.
“Troops mobilised to the area and discovered seven persons killed and five injured.”
He said the armed forces had been dealing with a lot of criminal activity in the area, including attacks on unsuspecting citizens, attacks on herders and villages, and the killing and poisoning of cattle.
“We are strategising to ensure lasting peace in the area,” he said.
Tensions have been high in Plateau State after at least 23 Muslim travellers were killed late last year when authorities said their convoy was attacked by a suspected Christian militia.
Police had blamed suspected Irigwe youths, who are predominantly Christian, for that attack on the Muslims returning from celebrating the Islamic New Year in another state. Irigwe representatives rejected any responsibility.
President Muhammadu Buhari, first elected in 2015, is under pressure as northwest and central Nigeria have been hit by a surge in mass kidnappings and attacks mostly blamed on heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits.
In the country’s northeast the military are battling a 12-year-old jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced another two million.
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