Nigeria Police Say 86 People Killed in Central Region Attack

(Bloomberg) -- At least 86 people were killed in an attack in central Nigeria’s Plateau state by suspected herders on several farming villages, police said.

About 50 houses were also destroyed in the attack late Saturday in the Barkin Ladi district, Plateau state police spokesman, Mathias Tyopev, said Sunday on local television network, Channels News.

“The figure that we have now is that 86 people lost their lives in the attack,” he said. The police said earlier 11 people had died.

Parts of central Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with about 200 million inhabitants, have seen a surge of violence in recent years over grazing rights between farming communities and herders being driven into the region by the southward advance of the Sahara Desert. More than 1,000 people have died in similar violence this year in Plateau and nearby states of Benue, Taraba and Nassarawa, according to official casualty figures.

Reprisal Attacks

Plateau state Governor Simon Lalong imposed a nighttime curfew in the affected areas and nearby districts from Sunday to prevent reprisal attacks and a further escalation of the violence, Rufus Bature, secretary to the government, said in a radio announcement.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings in a statement on Twitter and said that those responsible will be punished.

“We will not rest until all murderers and criminal elements and their sponsors are incapacitated and brought to justice,” he said.

The attacks pose a threat to Buhari’s second-term bid in February elections, with the violence pitting mainly Christian farmers in the swing-voting Middle Belt against mostly Muslim Fulani herders who share the same ethnicity with the president. Buhari won most of the region in the 2015 vote.

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