Nigeria: Scores killed in clashes between farmers and herders

LAGOS, 25 October (IRIN) - Scores of people have died in central Nigeria?s Plateau State in a series of raids by bandits and clashes between farmers and herders, residents and officials said.
In the latest incident, on Tuesday night, a group of gunmen identified by locals as Fulani herdsmen attacked the farming village of Maza, north of the Plateau capital, Jos. At least eight people were killed in the ensuing fighting.

Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye confirmed the incident in a broadcast on Wednesday and appealed for calm. "I want to assure you that this situation is under control as security agents have taken total control," he told residents.

Reports from the Shendam and Langtang districts said more than 35 people were killed in raids on several villages by armed bandits thought to include Fulani herdsmen and bandits from Nigeria?s northern neighbours, Niger and Chad, who have been operating in the region in recent years.

"The attacks have been persistent in the past two weeks and many people have died who remain unaccounted for," Isaac Dabup, a Langtang resident, told IRIN.

Plateau State has often experienced violent attacks on remote village communities since September last year when clashes between Muslims and Christians erupted in Jos, resulting in the death of more than 1,000 people.

While the state is predominantly Christian, large communities of Muslim Hausa-speakers, including Fulani herders, reside there. Local people said aggrieved Fulani herdsmen who lost relatives and their cattle herds in the 2001 violence had since been launching reprisal raids on isolated local communities.

Dabup said they had lately been joined by bandits. These are remnants of guerrilla armies from rebel wars in Niger and Chad who crossed into Nigeria and have been roaming parts of the central and northeast region in recent years.