Death toll in last week’s Nigeria attack doubles to 130
Security forces find dozens of bodies following gunmen’s attack in Kaduna state, doubling the initial death toll.
The death toll from an attack last week by gunmen in northwestern Nigeria has doubled to more than 130, the Kaduna state governor has said.
The attack appeared to have been a deliberate plan to “wipe out certain communities”, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai said on Tuesday, without elaborating.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Abuja, said the increase in death toll was “expected from the beginning” as 130 people had been marked as missing in the aftermath of the attack.
“The security forces have been combing the area, looking for survivors as well as bodies. They said they found most of the bodies burnt beyond recognition in a ravine,” he said.
“We met survivors who told us that hundreds of men armed with guns and other crude weapons had descended on the villages, killing and beheading anyone they saw. Some of them had their entire families killed in the attacks.”
“This part of Nigeria is prone to such attacks,” he said. “It is where mainly Muslim north meets the mainly Christian south.”
Those killed in last Friday’s attack were mainly from the Fulani ethnic group, who are predominantly Muslim and who have been involved in clashes in recent years with people from the Adara ethnic group, who are predominantly Christian.
Local residents, speaking to the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said last week that the attack was a reprisal for violence last October.
El-Rufai told reporters that police were still investigating the gunmen’s motive for the attack in Kajuru local government area in the south of the state, and there had been arrests.
He did not say how many people had been detained.
The attack took place the day before Nigeria was supposed to hold a presidential and legislative election, but electoral authorities delayed the vote by one week citing logistical challenges.
There was no indication that the attack was related to the election.
About 55 people were killed in October during what residents said were clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Kasuwan Magani area of Kajuru – the same local government area in which last week’s attack took place.
Security has become a key campaign issue before the presidential election in which President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office in 2015, and Atiku Abubakar, a businessman who served as vice president from 1999 to 2007, are the leading contenders.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with about 190 million inhabitants, is split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims and comprises about 250 different ethnic groups that mostly coexist peacefully.
However, hundreds of people were killed last year in outbreaks of violence over land use and resources in the central states of Nigeria slightly to the south of Kaduna, with some clashes between religious and ethnic groups.