Nomadic herders in Nigeria killed at least 140 people during a Christmas Eve rampage through 15 villages, according to media reports.
The hours-long attacks happened in the country’s central Plateau state as suspected nomadic herders used firearms and machetes on their victims, Reuters reported.
“As I am talking to you, in Mangu local governorate alone, we buried 15 people. As of this morning, in Bokkos, we are counting not less than 100 corpses. I am yet to take stock of (the deaths in) Barkin Ladi,” Plateau Gov. Caleb Mutfwang said in a broadcast on the local Channels Television. “It has been a very terrifying Christmas for us here in Plateau.”
The violence was the bloodiest in the country since 2018, when more than 200 people were killed amid clashes between farmers and herders.
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“We returned at 6 the next morning and found that houses had been burnt and people killed,” Grace Godwin told the news outlet. “There are still people missing.”
It was not clear what triggered the violence but the region, known as the “Middle Belt,” is often characterized chiefly Muslim Fulani herdsmen clashing with mainly Christian farmers, Reuters said.
Some of the locals said that it took more than 12 hours before security agencies responded to their call for help.
No group took responsibility for the attacks though blame fell on herders from the Fulani tribe, who have been accused of carrying out such mass killings across the northwest and central regions where the decades-long conflict over access to land and water has further worsened the sectarian division between Christians and Muslims in Africa’s most populous nation.
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Nigerian President President Bola Tinubu said the violence was “unprovoked” and directed the police to find those responsible.
Authorities said homes, cars and motorcycles were found burnt as well.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.