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World News

'Terrifying Christmas' as 140 killed in attacks on Christian villages in Nigeria

by Donna Birrell

At least 140 people have been killed and others are missing after a series of attacks by gunmen on Christian majority villages in northern Nigeria.

Officials said the attacks, on Christmas Eve were carried out by bandits on more than 20 different communities.

It’s believed more than 300 people were taken to hospital, in what is described as the bloodiest violence in the country for five years.

The attacks were carried out in the Christian-majority Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi areas of Plateau State. The state’s governor, Caleb Mutfwang described it as “a very terrifying Christmas for us here in Plateau."

Some residents have been describing to Reuters what happened.

Mother-of-three Grace Godwin was preparing food on Christmas Eve when her husband burst into the kitchen and ordered her and the children to run and take cover in the bush after gunmen were spotted in a nearby village.

Soon they heard gunfire, starting an hours-long attack by suspected nomadic herders:

"We returned at 6 the next morning and found that houses had been burnt and people killed. There are still people missing," Godwin said by phone.

"There is no one in Mayanga (village), women and children have all fled."

"These attacks have been recurring. They want to drive us out of our ancestral land but we will continue to resist these assaults," said Magit Macham, who had returned from the state capital Jos to celebrate Christmas with his family.

Macham was chatting to his brother outside his house when the sputtering sound of a petrol generator was interrupted by gunshots. His brother was hit by a bullet in the leg but Macham dragged him to into the bush where they hid for the night.

"We were taken unawares and those that could run ran into the bush. A good number of those that couldn't were caught and killed with machetes," he said.

The Plateau governor called the violence "unprovoked" and police said several houses, cars and motorcycles were burnt.

President Bola Tinubu, who has yet to spell out how he intends to tackle widespread security, described the attacks as "primitive and cruel" and directed police to track down those responsible.

 Violence in the region, known as the "Middle Belt", is often characterised as ethno-religious - chiefly Muslim Fulani herdsmen clashing with mainly Christian farmers.


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