At least 12 people were killed over the weekend in apparent tit-for-tat clashes between farmers and hersdmen in Taraba State, police and community sources said Monday.
The violence between Christian Bachama farmers and Muslim Fulani herders happened in the Lau district of Taraba state on Friday and Saturday.
The state police spokesman, David Misal, said 12 people were killed when unidentified gunmen attacked Fulani settlements on Friday.
A reprisal attack followed on Saturday, he added.
“We recorded four deaths in the Fulani settlements and eight in the Bachama village,” he said.
Residents of the affected villages put the death toll at 40. It was not possible to verify either figure independently.
The attacks are the latest in a bloody, long-running dispute over land, exacerbated by religious and ethnic tensions that have killed thousands in recent decades.
The International Crisis Group warned last September the conflict was becoming “as potentially dangerous as the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast”.
Herdsman Abdullahi Hamma said suspected Bachama tribesmen launched a dawn attack on his village of Donadda and two others, Babagasa and Katibu.
“We buried 15 bodies of people killed in the attacks on our communities,” he added.
On Saturday, Fulani herders stormed Bachama-populated Robi village on motorcycles and opened fire on residents.
“We lost 25 people to an unprovoked attack by Fulani gunmen on our village,” said Robi youth leader Felix Uban-Doma.
“Several people were injured.”
Police spokesman Misal said the killings were a “spill over” of similar violence last month in neighbouring Adamawa state. Lau district lies near the state border.
Then, at least 30 Fulani herders were killed by Bachama militia in an attack on four Fulani villages in the Numan district of the state. The killings led to reprisal attacks by Fulani herders on nearby Bachama villages where several people were killed, leading to an exodus of residents from the area.
“It was those aggrieved by the attack on their kinsmen in Numan that attacked the Fulani communities in Lau, which shares border with Adamawa, and led to the reprisals,” Misal said.
Police were deployed in the affected area to contain the violence, said Misal, adding the police arrested three suspects in connection with the violence.
In a related event, Misal confirmed the death of three persons while no fewer than six others sustained injuries in another overnight attack on Maisamari in town in Sardauna Local Government Area of the state by a suspected militia group.
He said the incident took place during a cultural event called Nding-Chin.
The cultural event was said to be taking place in the area for the first time.
Misal, who disclosed this in Jalingo on Monday, said the area was now calm.
He said that the command had deployed additional policemen to beef up security.
Godwin Sol, Acting Chairman of Sardauna Local Government Council, said his administration had earlier banned all cultural meetings and festivals because of the security situation in the area.
Sol, however, said he was surprised to learn that a group, which mobilised their kinsmen from surrounding villages, held a dance event in Maisamari against the council’s order.
He said security operatives were later mobilised to disperse the gathering.
The spokesman said due to the size of the crowd, a time frame within which to complete the exercise and disperse was given.
Sol said at the expiration of the time frame, instead of leaving the town as agreed, the group relocated to the house of one Yaya Ahmadun to continue with the dance which continued into the night.
“It was while this was going on that some unknown gunmen attacked the place and killed three persons and injured six others,” Sol said.
The council boss said the host of the event in Maisamari as well as leaders of the cultural group have been arrested.