Gunmen killed 14 members of an extended family in a midnight raid on a village in central Nigeria witnesses said, continuing a two week cycle of violence between Muslims and Christians in which at least 70 people have been killed.
A Reuters reporter on the scene with local officials saw 14 bodies from the raid. Witnesses said they were all from one Christian family, and had been shot or hacked to death by Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
“In the night around 12.30 a.m. we heard a strange noise. Those people who came to attack us were speaking the Fulani language and they were pointing at houses. They all dressed in military uniforms,” said local council chairman Moses Dalyop, Reuters reports.
“One pregnant woman who was in labour was among those killed. They shot victims and (others) were macheted to death.”
Plateau state has been caught up in a spiral of tit-for-tat killing between Christian and Muslim gangs since the end of last month, when a group of youths attacked and killed several Muslims as they gathered for prayers at the end of Ramadan.
The U.N. human rights office called on Nigeria on Friday to halt the violence in Plateau, in which it said 70 people had been killed since early August.
The latest killing would bring that number to more than 80 — a separate Reuters tally runs to 74 at least.
Plateau state straddles the “Middle Belt” between Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south that, though normally peaceful, periodically flares up, igniting local rivalries over religion, ethnicity and fertile farmland.
The violence adds to President Goodluck Jonathan’s security headaches, after a spate of bombings by Islamist insurgents in the north and the capital, including one on the U.N. offices that killed 23 people.
Local government officials have accused the security forces of not doing enough to prevent the violence.
A spokesman of the military Special Task Force (STF) meant to keep order in Plateau, Captain Charles Ekeocha, defended its role and said one Fulani herdsman suspected of a killing had been arrested on Saturday.