Eight killed in Nigerian ethnic clashes: police

Violence erupted on Friday and continued through Sunday when armed Fulani herders attacked villages of the Tiv ethnic group over the killing of a kinsman which they blamed on Tiv farmers, police say.

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KANO - Eight people were killed at the weekend in ethnic clashes between herders and farmers in central Nigeria's Nasarawa state, police said Tuesday, although locals put the toll at over 20.

Violence erupted on Friday and continued through Sunday when armed Fulani herders attacked villages of the Tiv ethnic group over the killing of a kinsman which they blamed on Tiv farmers, said Ramhan Nansel, Nasarawa state police spokesperson.

"We received a complaint on the killing of a Fulani herdsman but while the investigation was ongoing, a reprisal attack was carried out in Hangara village and neighbouring Kwayero village", Nansel said.

"Eight people were killed in the attacks and their bodies were recovered by the police and taken to hospital," he said.

Military and police teams deployed in the area to restore calm and arrest the perpetrators, Nansel said.

However, Peter Ahemba, the head of the Tiv Development Association, a socio-cultural group, said the death toll was higher.

"We recovered more than 20 corpses of our people killed in the attacks in 12 villages across Lafia, Obi and Awe districts where around 5,000 were displaced," Ahemba said.

Ahemba claimed many people were still missing and it was not clear if they were dead or alive.

Deadly clashes between nomadic cattle herders and local farmers over grazing and water rights are common in central Nigeria.

The internecine conflict has taken an ethnic and religious dimension in recent years. The Fulani herders are Muslim and the farmers largely Christians.

The friction, which has roots dating back more than a century, was caused by droughts, population growth, the expansion of sedentary farming into communal areas as well as poor governance.

Violence by criminal gangs of cattle thieves among the herders, who raid villages, killing and burning homes after looting them, has compounded the situation.