Death toll climbs in central Nigeria violence: Police


Four people have been arrested in connection with the deaths

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PIC: At least 10 people died in several days of clashese between herdsmen and farmers in eastern Nigeria. (AFP Photo)


NIGERIA - The death toll from clashes between youth and cattle herders in central Nigeria has risen to 24, the police said on Wednesday.

Violence broke out on Monday in the village of Omutu, in the Okpokwu area of Benue state, which has been hit by repeated unrest over land and grazing rights.

The killings, most of them of women and children, are said to have been a reprisal for the death of a cattle herder and the disappearance of another.

"As of this moment, the figure of those that died... is 24," the Benue state police commissioner Fatai Owoseni told reporters. On Tuesday, police gave the toll as 15.

Four people have been arrested in connection with the deaths, he added.

Benue has been a flashpoint of tensions between mainly nomadic cattle herders and sedentary farmers after the state introduced a ban on open grazing for cattle.

In January, 73 people from ethnic Tiv farming communities were buried at a mass funeral after a series of deadly attacks blamed on Fulani herdsmen.

More than 100 people have been killed this year alone, causing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Religion adds an extra dimension to the ethnic and sectarian tensions, with the farmers mainly Christian and the herders largely Muslim.

At least 10 people were killed in several days of clashes starting last Thursday in the Mambilla area of Taraba state, which borders Benue.

President Muhammadu Buhari has been under pressure to quell the violence and last month ordered military reinforcements into a number of states, including Benue.

Police commissioner Owoseni said 44 people had been arrested since the start of the operation on February 15 for "non-compliance" with the state's anti-open grazing law.