At least five people have been killed in central Nigeria by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen, police say, in the latest flare-up linked to tensions over grazing rights.
The violence took place in Nigeria’s Plateau state on Thursday, as President Muhammadu Buhari was visiting Plateau and four other flashpoint states.
“The gunmen were believed to be herdsmen. They attacked some communities in Miango district and killed five people,” state police spokesman Terna Tyopev said on Saturday.
Tyopev said dozens of people were injured while many houses and properties were destroyed in the mayhem.
Apart from the incident in Miango, six people were also killed at Ganda village in Bokkos local government area of the state, according to local media.
The police could not immediately confirm the attack. Central Nigeria has become the scene of almost daily clashes between settled farmers and the largely nomadic herders in a battle for land and resources.
The herders are Muslim and the farmers are largely Christian, which adds an ethnic and religious dimension to the tensions.
Buhari has been under pressure to end the violence. Plateau state lies in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt that separates the predominantly Muslim north from the largely Christian south.
It has long been a hotbed of ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions between indigenous farming communities, who are mainly Christian, and the nomadic Hausa/Fulani cattle herders, who are Muslim.
Tensions have boiled over access to land and resources, escalating into a rift that has deepened along nominally religious lines. In January, eight people were killed in tit-for-tat attacks in the rural districts of Bokkos and Bassa of the state.