Gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen have stormed a meeting in northern Nigeria’s Zamfara state and killed 79 people, police told the AFP news agency.
“The governor and other officials were today at Yar Galadima village where they participated in the burial of 79 people killed in the attack by cattle rustlers,” Nuhu Salihu Anka, a government spokesman, told AFP on Sunday.
“The incident happened in Galadima yesterday during a meeting of community leaders and representatives of vigilante groups” who were discussing ways to thwart armed robbers and cattle rustlers, Lawal Abdullahi, Zamfara state police spokesman, told AFP.
He said security forces had deployed to the area. But survivors said more than 60 people might have died in the attack.
“We counted 61 bodies from the scene of the attack last night, while many people were wounded,” a survivor who gave his name only as Babaginda from neighbouring Kaduna state told AFP.
He said he was lucky to escape with his life and implored the security forces to stem incessant attacks by Fulani rustlers on villages in the area.
The conflict between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers over land rights, particularly in central Nigeria, has persisted for more than a decade despite a series of peace efforts across several states.
Boko Haram attack
In a separate incident, Boko Haram fighters attacked a remote town in northeast Nigeria’s Yobe state on Saturday, killing 17 people including five who were worshipping at a mosque, witnesses told Reuters news agency.
They said dozens of gunmen surrounded the village of Buni Gari, shooting residents and setting shops and houses ablaze.
“There were too many of them to count. They were shouting ‘God is Great’,” said an old woman who identified herself only as Kaka, glancing around at the mostly mud-and-thatch houses, many of which were stained with black soot or reduced to rubble.
“People were praying in the mosque and they surrounded it and killed them,” she told Reuters at the scene on Sunday.
Boko Haram, fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, has in the past year broadened the range of their targets beyond security forces, government officials and Christians to include schoolchildren and other civilians, sometimes massacring whole villages and abducting girls.
They regard all who do not subscribe to their austere, al-Qaeda inspired brand of Islam, whether Christian or Muslim, as apostates, although they only began attacking civilians in large numbers after the formation of pro-government civilian militia as a counterinsurgency tactic a year ago.
A military crackdown since last May has failed to stem the insurgency, which remains the leading security threat to Africa’s top oil producer and has blighted President Goodluck Jonathan’s record ahead of elections next February.