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World News

Churches burned, 30 killed in new clashes in Nigeria’s Plateau State

by Premier Journalist

There are reports that two churches have been burned and 30 people have been killed in attacks in Nigeria’s Plateau State.

It was triggered by an unsuccessful robbery of cattle in Mangu town on Tuesday.

According to the BBC, the situation turned deadly when the cattle escaped on to a road, leading to further chaos and violence over the next 48 hours between the Christian Mwagaful community and the Muslim Fulani group.

Such attacks have been commonplace, with motives including religious and tribal differences, as well as disputes over land between mostly Christian farmers and Muslim-majority nomadic herdsmen.

Joseph Gwankat, head of the community group Mwaghavul Development Association (MDA) said the attackers targeted several villages including Kwahaslalek, Kinat and Mairana, located on the borders of Mangu and Barkin Ladi local government areas,

"The victims had sought refuge in the house of a community leader after earlier unrest in Mangu town. The attackers surrounded the house and killed those inside," Gwankat told Reuters by phone.

Survivors reported that the gunmen indiscriminately shot at people, including women and children, and set fire to houses and property.

This follows the news of 300 deaths during targeted attacks on Christian villages in Plateau State on Christmas Eve.

The MDA blamed the attack on herders, and questioned why troops deployed by the federal government to the area since the Christmas Eve attacks didn't intervene to stop the violence.

Nigeria defence spokesperson Tukur Gusau said the military remains neutral following allegations of partisanship in the conflict, adding that troops responded professionally and by the rules of engagement.

The latest attacks come amid a surge in violence in the Plateau, which has seen repeated clashes between nomadic herders and local farming communities.

Plateau governor Caleb Mutfwang condemned the attacks and called for calm as his government "is taking proactive measures to halt further destruction of lives and property," his said office on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a new report from Makurdi Diocese’s Foundation for Justice, Development and Peace has revealed there were hundreds were killed in 119 militant attacks targeting predominantly Christian communities in one state alone in 2023.

It states that extremists murdered 414 people and injured, raped or kidnapped almost 100 more in Benue State last year.

Fr Remigius Ihyula, head of the Foundation for Justice, Development and Peace, told charity Aid to the Church in Need: “Nigeria’s Middle Belt, which includes Benue State, where the Diocese of Makurdi is located, is known for its very fertile lands, and has become a battleground in these conflicts.

“The Fulani come from places as far as the Republic of Niger or the northern states of Sokoto or Katsina.”

He said that the Fulani militants are “armed with heavy weapons” and disguise themselves as “nomads in search of foliage for their flock, but acting like jihadists, to propagate Islam as an ideology”.

The first quarter of 2023 was the most violent, with 18 attacks in January, 15 in February and 18 in March, leading to the deaths of at least 163.

April was the deadliest month, with 63 murdered in nine attacks. 

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