A group of 27 herders were killed Wednesday and several others injured in what police called a bomb explosion in central Nigeria, a region known for ethnic and religious tensions.
The herders and their cattle were in Rukubi, a village on the border between Nasarawa and Benue states, when a bomb exploded in their midst.
“We have established 27 people were killed in the bomb explosion along with several cattle,” said Maiyaki Muhammed Baba, Nasarawa’s police commissioner.
“Many other people were injured and the death toll could mount as searches are still going on,” Baba said, adding that police bomb experts were investigating the origin of the explosion.
An umbrella group representing herders said the bomb was dropped by a Nigerian military jet.
“It was an airstrike. It killed 27 of our people,” said Lawal Dano of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.
“We all know it is only the military that possesses jets to carry out aerial strikes, and we call for a thorough investigation and necessary sanction on whoever is behind this,” Dano said.
Nigeria’s air force spokesman did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
Herders and farmers in central Nigeria have been clashing over grazing and water rights for decades.
But the violence has worsened in recent years after some herders joined criminal gangs that raid villages, killing and burning homes.
The conflict has also taken on an ethnic and religious dimension, with most herders being Muslims while farmers are largely Christians.
Last Thursday, nine people were killed when suspected herders opened fire outside a camp for people displaced by earlier attacks near Makurdi, the capital of Benue state, according to local officials.
Security is a major issue in Nigeria ahead of next month’s elections to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general.
There have been accidental airstrikes on civilians by the military in northern Nigeria, where troops are fighting jihadists and criminal gangs.
In September 2021, officials said an accidental Nigerian military airstrike on a village in Yobe state killed at least nine civilians.
The air force said its jet had been pursuing a group of jihadists in the area.
In January 2017, at least 112 people were killed when a jet struck a camp housing people displaced by jihadist violence in the town of Rann, near the border with Cameroon.
The Nigerian military blamed a “lack of appropriate marking of the area” for that bombardment in a report issued six months later.