JOS, Nigeria – Some 300 gunmen stormed a mostly Christian village in central Nigeria on Sunday, killing five people and burning scores of homes, police said.
The attack targeted the village of Kuka in Plateau state, which roughly falls on the dividing line between Nigeria’s mainly Christian south and predominately Muslim north.
Herdsmen from the mostly Muslim Fulani-Hausa ethnic group have been blamed for scores of attacks on the primarily Christian Berom community. The Berom are considered the state’s indigenous people, which legally gives them enhanced rights, including better access to land, education and public jobs.
Fulani leaders have for years claimed that the violence can only be tempered if state leaders, who are almost entirely Berom, agree to major political reforms.
It was not clear who carried out the latest attack. While Kuka is a mostly Christian village, some of the victims were said to have been Fulanis.
Resident Abdullahi Ragmin said “200 houses” were burned, and described the victims as ranging from age 35 to 60, in an account confirmed by other witnesses.
Salisu Mustapha, military spokesman in Plateau, confirmed the attack but said the gunmen had “been repelled and calm has returned to the community.”
The ongoing peace process in Plateau has mostly failed to stop the violence, with deep mistrust persisting between the state’s politicians and the security forces.
Berom leaders have accused the military of supporting and at times cooperating with the Fulani, but such allegations have not been definitely proved.
Plateau has also been targeted by the Islamist group Boko Haram, which is waging a four-year insurgency in the north, but most of the unrest has stemmed from local sectarian divisions.