Gunmen suspected to be Fulani herders have killed 33 people in an attack on a farming village in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna state, where intercommunal herder-farmer violence is common, a local official told AFP Tuesday.
The assailants stormed Runji village in Zangon Kataf district at around 1900 GMT on Saturday, opening fire on residents and torching homes as people tried to flee, Francis Sani, administrative chairman for the Zangon Kataf area said.
“We buried 33 people killed in the attack on Sunday, including women and children,” Sani told AFP by telephone.
“The attackers, who are no doubt Fulani herdsmen, also burnt more than 40 houses in the village before they were confronted by soldiers and vigilantes who were alerted,” he said.
Six people were also injured in the attack, which happened three days after a similar attack in nearby Atak’Njei community killed eight people, Sani added.
Insecurity will be one of the major challenges for President-elect Bola Tinubu, who won the presidential ballot in February marred by technical problems and opposition claims of vote-rigging.
In a statement on Sunday, Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna state internal security affairs commissioner confirmed the attack in which “several lives were lost” without giving details.
He said an unspecified number of houses were burnt and some residents injured in the attack, which he condemned as “unacceptable and unjustifiable.”
Predominantly Christian Southern Kaduna, where Zangon Kataf lies, is a hotbed of tit-for-tat flare-ups between Fulani herders and pastoral farmers.
The area has for several years been wracked by deadly conflict between herders and farmers over grazing and water rights.
The conflict has spiraled into broader criminality, with gangs of so-called bandits comprising mostly herders, carrying out deadly raids on villages to steal livestock, kidnap for ransom, and burn homes after looting them.
There has been an increase in tit-for-tat killings between the bandits and vigilante groups set by local communities in recent times, prompting the state authorities to attempt peace negotiations.
Authorities and security analysts have expressed concern over alliances between the bandits, who are motivated by financial gains, and jihadists waging a 14-year-old insurgency in the northeast.
That conflict has killed around 40,000 people and displaced more than two million more since 2009, though militants have been pushed back from territory and towns that they once held.