MARKUDI (AFP) – Security forces have been deployed in Guma Local Government in Benue after communal clashes killed at least eight and forced thousands to flee their homes, police and witnesses said on Thursday.
The clashes broke out last week pitting a local farming ethnic group known as Tivs against Fulani nomadic herdsmen in Africa’s most populous nation.
Police in Benue state said they recorded five deaths, while in neighbouring Nassarawa state police said three people were killed in the clashes. Local media speculated that 50 people could have been dead in sporadic fighting between the two sides in recent weeks.
Nasarawa state police spokesman Cornelius Ocholi said “heavy security, very heavy security has been deployed” in the affected areas. Both the military and police were involved.
“For now the situation is absolutely calm and security forces have been deployed to ensure the problem does not escalate,” said Benue state police spokesman Ejike Alaribe.
A journalist on Wednesday visited one of the camps where villagers, fearing more attacks, have fled and estimated some 5,000 people were there.
Jubrin Genyi, a spokesman for the displaced, claimed up to 200,000 people could have fled their homes, but the figure could not be independently verified.
Clashes between local farming ethnic groups and the nomadic pastoralists occur regularly in Jos, the capital of Plateau state.
Nassarawa neighbours Plateau state, which lies in the so-called middle belt region between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian
The area has been caught in a cycle of deadly violence and reprisal attacks that have regularly flared up for years. Thousands of people have been killed in Plateau state alone in recent years.