Gunmen have killed at least 30 people in a central Nigerian village and torched dozens of homes, officials said.

Witnesses and survivors said the unidentified assailants also killed or stole animals during the Monday onslaught, which marks the latest outbreak of violence blamed on long-standing ethnic divisions.

"Many houses were burned in the attack," state police chief Chris Olakpe said.

Violence in central Nigeria is frequently fuelled by land disputes between semi-nomadic communities like the Muslim Fulani and farming settlers, including mainly Christian Berom, both often armed with automatic weapons.

Many houses were burned in the attack.

Chris Olakpe,
state police chief

In Monday's attack, gunmen stormed the majority-Berom Shonong village in the Riyom local government area in the early hours, opening fire on residents and burning dozens of homes to the ground, said Daniel Dem, a member of the state house of assembly.

A spokesman for the local military confirmed the attack.

Many other people were taken to hospital, said Dem, who questioned why soldiers in the area had not prevented the violence.

Witnesses said more than 40 houses were burned while domestic animals were either killed or taken away by the perpetrators, suspected to be Hausa-Fulani herdsmen.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 10,000 people have died in Nigeria's so-called Middle Belt, where the country's majority Muslim north meets the predominantly Christian south, in brutal tit-for-tat violence over the past two decades.

Such battles, far from economic centres or oilfields in Africa's second-biggest economy and top oil producer, are largely ignored by the central government, rights groups say.

Source: Agencies