At least four people have been killed in more attacks blamed on herdsmen in central Nigeria Benue state, an area wracked by deadly sectarian violence between herders and farmers, officials said on Wednesday.
According to Fatai Owoseni, the Benue state police commissioner, police were investigating an “incident” on Tuesday evening in the village of Gbeji.
“There is said to be an attack by suspected herdsmen in the area but we can confirm that as at this morning, four dead bodies were recovered there. We have stepped up security in the area and we are investigating,” he told media.
Nevertheless, according to a local chief, Joseph Anawah, 10 people had been killed over a period of 24 hours in attacks aimed at a number of villages, including Gbeji.
“On Tuesday evening between 6 pm and 9 pm … fully armed herdsmen came down heavily on the affected communities,” he said.
“They burnt down houses and killed about eight people in the community and injured many.”
The attackers continued and “killed two people and burnt down houses” in the Tswarev region, Anawah said.
The killings were happening “every day,” he continued.
“It is obvious from this development that the security personnel sent to the area are either insufficient or they have been overwhelmed.”
Benue state lies in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt that separates the predominantly Muslim north from the largely Christian south.
The area has long been a hotbed of ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions between indigenous farming communities, who are mainly Christian and the nomadic Hausa/Fulani cattle herders, who are Muslim.
Tensions have boiled over access to land and resources, escalating into a rift that has deepened along nominally religious lines.
On Sunday, at least five people were killed travelling on a road in Benue state.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, an ethnic Fulani Muslim from the north, is under intense pressure to end the killings that have claimed hundreds of lives since January.