Intercommunal violence is common in the state due to tensions over land between nomadic herders and indigenous farmers.
At least 30 people have been killed in renewed violence in Nigeria’s central Plateau State, where clashes between Muslim herders and Christian farming communities have erupted for years, a community organisation and an aid group source said on Thursday.
Despite a 24-hour curfew imposed on Tuesday in Plateau’s Mangu local district, schools, places of worship, and homes have been burned and ransacked in more attacks, community leaders said.
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The Mwaghavul Development Association, an organisation for ethnic Mwaghavul people who are mostly Christians, blamed Fulani Muslim herders for attacking Kwahaslalek village, killing approximately 30 people.
“At the moment, our people are left at the mercy of God and the little they can do in self-defence,” the association said in a statement.
That figure was confirmed by a local rescue official and a source at an aid group working on the ground, who spoke to the news agency AFP on condition of anonymity. The aid source said more than 100 people had been wounded.
Security personnel are yet to comment on the death toll from the most recent attacks.
Two camps for the displaced have been set up in Mangu town, for about 1,500 people, local chairman of Nigeria Red Cross Nurudeen Husaini Magaji told AFP.
Plateau’s governor announced the curfew on Tuesday after another clash that officials blamed on a dispute between a herder moving his cattle and other residents using the road.
A history of communal conflict
The state lies in the Middle Belt, a region seen as the dividing line between Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. Intercommunal violence has been common in the region, which is home to dozens of ethnic minorities like the Mwaghavul.
Clashes in the region and the northwest are rooted in community tensions over land between nomadic herders and indigenous farmers, but exacerbated by the effects of climate change and population rise in the region. Multiple local reports have attributed the farmers as saying they have had to organise into self-defence vigilante groups to fend off attacks by the herders.
The situation has been worsened by reprisal attacks and a web of broader criminality. Heavily armed gangs, known locally as bandits, raid villages especially in the northwest states, looting and kidnapping for ransom. The conflict has also seeped into parts of southwest and southeast Nigeria.
In recent times, tensions have soared since nearly 200 people were killed over Christmas in raids on mostly Christian villages.
The Jama’atu Nasril Islam, a Muslim community organisation, also said that clashes erupted between Tuesday and Wednesday in Mangu town, with places of worship and faith-based schools attacked.
“We call on the government and security agencies to intensify their efforts in securing the lives and properties of the inhabitants of Mangu and other flash points,” JNI’s state director Salim Musa Umar said.
“All concerned should also do everything possible to prevent any possible escalation.”
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