June 11, 2014

Gunmen kill at least eight in raids on Plateau villages

JOS  (AFP) – At least eight people, including three security officers, were killed when gunmen raided three villages in Nigeria’s volatile central Plateau state, army and police spokesmen said.

The gunmen launched pre-dawn attacks in Bachit, Rim and Jol villages, they said.

Army Special Task Force (STF) spokesman in the state, Captain Ikedichi Iweha said: “Eight people, including three STF personnel, died in the gun battle. Many houses were burnt including a church.

“But the casualties would have been heavier but for the STF, who went there promptly to repel the unknown attackers. No arrest was made but intensive patrols are going on.”

Police spokeman Joseph Dominic Esin said the gunmen arrived in the villages simultaneously and started shooting sporadically, setting homes on fire. Five villagers were also injured, he added.

A parliamentarian representing the affected villages, Daniel Dem, also confirmed the attacks, which happened at about 1:30 am (1230 GMT) in a region riven by ethnic and sectarian violence.

Plateau state lies in Nigeria’s Middle Belt which splits the mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south.

Jos is its capital and has been an economic and political meeting point for the two regions.

But the state has witnessed decades of widespread religious and sectarian upheavals, which have claimed tens of thousands of lives, according to Human Rights Watch.

In rural areas, much of the bloodshed has been linked to disputes over grazing rights between mostly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

Last month, two suspected Boko Haram car bombs ripped through a crowded market in Jos, killing at least 118 people.