KANO: Scores of people were killed in an outbreak of sectarian violence that lasted for days in northeast Nigeria, police and community leaders have said.
The bloodshed between the Fulani herders and Yandang farmers broke out in Lau district, Taraba state, on July 5 and went on for days, with police putting the death toll at 17.
"A total of 17 people were confirmed killed in the four days the violence lasted and several villages were burnt," Taraba state police spokesman David Misal told AFP.
"Police detachments were sent in and by July 8 the situation was completely brought under control," Misal said.
But Fulani and Yandang community leaders yesterday said that 70 people died in the violence and thousands had fled from their homes in search of safety.
"We lost 23 people in the attacks and more than 3,000 of our people have been displaced," said Sahabi Mahmoud, head of the herders union in Taraba, to reporters in the state capital Jalingo.
According to Aaron Artimas, a Yandang community leader, "more than 50 farmers were killed and 50 villages were burnt" in the unrest.
"Over 2,000 displaced persons from the affected villages are currently taking refuge at the central primary school in Jalingo while some are in other villages," Artimas said, blaming militias from neighbouring Adamawa state for the violence.
Adamawa state has been the site of a series of deadly clashes between herders and farmers in violence that has intensified over recent months.
On Monday six people were killed in clashes between Fulani herdsmen and ethnic Bachama farmers in neighbouring Demsa and Numan communities in Adamawa state.
The two districts are close to Lau in Taraba and have seen repeated killings and reprisals in recent months, including last December when scores were killed.
The July killings in Taraba are the latest in a long-running battle for land and resources that have put President Muhammadu Buhari under pressure as elections approach next year.
Buhari, who is running for a second term, is facing a series of security challenges across Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, including Boko Haram jihadists in the northeast and oil militants in the south.