AFP: Jos, Nigeria — Muslims attacked a Christian village in central Nigeria on Saturday, killing eight people with machetes and burning seven houses and a church in fresh religious violence, an army spokesman said.
The attack followed clashes in eastern Nigeria earlier in the week that also killed eight and left six mosques and a church burnt.
“It’s true eight people were killed,” Lieutenant Colonel Kingsley Umoh said.
An AFP correspondent saw the bodies, as well as the burnt houses and church in Mazzah village, near the city of Jos, where deadly religious clashes have occurred a number of times in recent months.
Umoh said Fulani Muslims entered Mazzah between 1:30 am and 5:00 am, shooting sporadically in the air to lure sleeping residents outside their homes before they were killed.
“Seven people were killed instantly with machetes while three others were seriously injured. One of them died on the way to the hospital,” he said.
He said troop reinforcements had been deployed to Mazzah, some 14 kilometres (nine miles) from Jos, the capital of central Plateau State, to prevent the violence from escalating.
The village was calm on Saturday afternoon, but some residents were seen leaving for Jos out of fears for their safety.
A senior state official, Gyang Pwajok, described the overnight attack on the mainly Christian village as an “act of terrorism”.
Plateau State lies in the so-called middle belt between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south.
Jos has long been the centre of ethnic and religious violence in a country whose 150 million population is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims.
In March, Muslim herdsmen from the Fulani and Hausa ethnic groups launched attacks on five Christian Berom villages near the city, killing more than 500 people, state officials say.
Local rights groups say 1,500 people have died in inter-communal violence in the Jos region since the start of this year alone.
The clashes earlier this week occurred in Wukari, a town in the remote eastern Taraba state, over the building of a mosque.
A Christian mob opposed to the construction of the mosque razed it, police said. Muslims responded by attacking a nearby church, leading to the eruption of violent clashes between the two sides.
Some observers say the violence results from religion being exploited in the struggle for local power. There have been warnings that such clashes could increase in the run up to elections expected early next year.
The recent violence also comes just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the start of an uprising by an Islamist sect in the northern city of Maiduguri on July 26.
Nigerian police and troops crushed the uprising by the Boko Haram sect — which has also been called the Nigerian Taliban — after four days of street battles that left more than 800 dead, mostly sect members.