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100 killed in Nigeria as gunmen storm villages

world Updated: Mar 16, 2014 21:24 IST

At least 100 people were killed in the religiously divided centre of Nigeria this weekend, local officials said on Sunday, as tensions between Muslim-dominated herdsmen and mostly Christian farmers again turned deadly.

About 40 assailants armed with guns and machetes stormed the villages of Angwan Gata, Chenshyi and Angwan Sankwai, attacking locals in their sleep and torching their homes, Yakubu Bitiyong, a lawmaker at the Kaduna state parliament told AFP.

"We have at least 100 dead bodies from the three villages attacked by the gunmen" overnight Friday-Saturday, he said, adding that scores of residents were also injured.

Some of the victims "were shot and burnt in their homes while others were hacked with machetes," Bitiyong said.

According to a local government official who asked not to be named, around 2,000 people displaced by the attacks were now sheltering in a primary school in Gwandong village.

Kaduna state police spokesman Aminu Lawan confirmed the attacks but refused to give a casualty toll or say who was behind the violence.

Local residents, mostly Christians, blamed the bloodshed on Muslim Fulani herdsmen, who have been accused of similar raids in the past.

Chenshyi village was the worst affected with at least 50 people killed, said Adamu Marshall, a spokesman for the Southern Kaduna Peoples' Union, a regional political and cultural body.

"Many people are still in the bush, afraid to return to their burnt homes," he told AFP, confirming a total toll of at least 100 dead.

"The attackers looted food and set fire to the barns during the attacks," he added.

Kaduna state governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero was to cut short a visit to the United States in response to the violence, his spokesman said.

Fulani leaders have for years complained about the loss of grazing land which is crucial to their livelihood, with resentment between the herdsmen and their agrarian neighbours rising over the past decade.