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Gunmen Kill 17 in Raid as Violence in Central Nigeria Worsens

At least 17 people died when gunmen attacked a village in the central Nigerian state of Taraba, according to the police, as a conflict between Muslim herders and largely Christian farmers worsens.

The assault began late on April 21 and ended yesterday, state police spokesman Jospeh Kwaji said from the state capital, Jalingo. Most villagers fled their homes in fear of further attacks, he said. Reverend Amos Alu, a community leader in the area, said by phone that more than 30 people were killed and bodies are still being found.

“They shot at people and burnt houses at the same time without any intervention by the security forces,” Alu said yesterday. “We are helpless here and we plead with the federal government to deploy special troops to rescue us from these unfortunate and deadly attacks.”

Ethnic Fulani herdsmen and Jukun farmers have clashed for the past two weeks around the town of Wukari, about 285 kilometers (177 miles) east of the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Violence between herders and farmers in the central areas of Africa’s biggest oil producer has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people since December, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Soldiers and policemen have been sent to the area, Kwaji said.

Besides Taraba, clashes between herders and farmers have affected the states of Benue, Kaduna, Plateau and Nasarawa. In the northeast, Nigerian security forces are battling Islamist militant group Boko Haram in a conflict that has killed 1,500 people this year, according to Amnesty International.

President Goodluck Jonathan blamed Boko Haram for an April 14 bombing in Abuja that killed at least 75 people. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau took responsibility for the attack in a video obtained by Bloomberg News.

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