The death toll from fighting between farmers and herders in Nigeria’s north-central state of Plateau has risen above 100 with locals searching in the bush for more bodies, residents and local authorities say.
Gunmen stormed villages and burned several houses in the Mangu area on Tuesday with at least 20 people initially estimated to have died, mostly women and children.
The violence was in reprisal for farmers killing a herder and his cattle who had encroached on their land last month, local herder Bello Yahaya said on Friday.
Mangu local government chairman Minista Daniel Daput said a mass burial had been conducted for about 50 people. Residents said another 50 were to be buried on Friday and they were looking for more missing people in the surrounding bush.
Plateau is one of several ethnically and religiously diverse hinterland states known as Nigeria’s Middle Belt, where intercommunal conflict has killed hundreds of people in recent years.
The violence is often painted as an ethno-religious conflict between nomadic Muslim herders – mostly ethnic Fulani – and mainly Christian Indigenous farmers. However, experts say climate change and expanding agriculture have also exacerbated the conflict.
Makut Simon Macham, a spokesperson for Plateau’s governor, said authorities were assessing the situation and would prosecute suspects, but he could not give casualty numbers.