Nigerian herders deny killing scores of farmers

2018-06-26 21:51
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Cattle herders on Tuesday denied carrying out attacks that killed scores of people in farming communities in central Nigeria, as the government sought to defuse mounting tensions.

The Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) said reports it had admitted involvement in the clashes in Plateau state were "nothing but utter falsehood".

Officials have said 86 people were killed in an apparent reprisal attack on six villages but local groups said at least 100 people lost their lives.

A resurgence of violence in the long-running resource conflict between nomadic herders and farmers across Nigeria's central states this year has put the government under pressure.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on a promise to curb insecurity but analysts say the latest unrest could eclipse the Boko Haram insurgency, which has killed at least 20 000 since 2009.

Police have said Saturday's violence against ethnic Berom farmers was "believed to have been carried out by (ethnic) Fulani herdsmen".

That prompted irate Berom youths to blockade the highway between Jos and Abuja. At least six motorists who looked "Fulani and Muslim" were killed, eyewitnesses said.

MACBAN said Berom and Irigwe militia had repeatedly attacked Fulani herders and their settlements in recent months but they had not retaliated.

Danladi Chiroma, from the group, said some 300 cattle had been lost in recent weeks. He blamed Berom youths and called it "a matter of criminality" that may be politically motivated.

'Reprehensible' resurgence of bloodshed 

Plateau state has previously been at the centre of violence between herders and farmers, which has taken on an ethnic, political and religious dimension.

The herders are mostly Muslim while the farmers are largely Christian.

Plateau state governor Simon Lalong, who has been credited with trying to bring an end to the conflict, called the resurgence of violence "reprehensible" after three years of relative calm.

He also warned against politicising the conflict or giving it a "religious colouration".

"We shall not allow ourselves to be dragged into our gory past," he said in a statement on Monday evening.

Buhari arrived in the state capital, Jos, on Tuesday afternoon for private talks with Lalong, according to an AFP reporter in the city.

On Monday, Buhari's deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, visited and vowed that those responsible would be arrested and prosecuted.

Additional police and soldiers have already been sent to the state. Communities have been warned not to take matters into their hands to settle scores.

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Read more on:    boko haram  |  muhammadu buhari  |  nigeria  |  west africa
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