Nigeria gunmen kill two politicians at funeral
7/8/2012 10:30:02 PM -
JOS, Nigeria (AFP) - Gunmen killed a federal senator and a state lawmaker in Nigeria's troubled Plateau state on Sunday at a mass burial for the victims of an attack a day earlier.
Local officials said the killings were carried out by local herdsmen involved in a long-running vendetta over land, while the head of Nigeria's senate spoke of an assassination.
"The senator representing Plateau North, Gyang Dantong, and the majority leader of the state assembly, Gyang Fulani, were gunned down today by Fulani herdsmen," said Pam Ayuba, spokesman for the state's governor.
He added that the two were killed while attending the burial for the victims of a Saturday raid that killed at least 23, also blamed on the Fulani, a tribe made up of Muslim, pastoralist herdsmen.
Another federal lawmaker "escaped death by a whisker," during Sunday's attack, Ayuba added.
The state's police spokesman, Abuh Emmanuel, told AFP the murders came amid a series of raids that caused "anarchy," in several villages during which a number of houses were burnt.
The death toll was likely higher than two, the police spokesman said, but declined to offer specifics.
Asked about the assailants, he said "the incident was caused by suspected Fulani."
The gunmen, who stormed the graveyard as Saturday's victims were being buried, were likely inspired by their resentment for the state's Christian political leadership, according to the governor's spokesman.
Plateau state falls in Nigeria's so-called "Middle Belt" region, dividing the country's mainly Muslim north from its mostly Christian south, and has previously been the site of waves of deadly sectarian violence.
The burial ground was located roughly 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the capital Jos.
A resident of the area told AFP that Christian youths had set up roadblocks after news of the attacks spread.
"Youth in the area ... have taken over the two major highways, setting up barricades and looking for Muslim motorists to vent their anger on," said Samuel Gambo.
State governor Jonah Jang imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in four areas that comes into force immediately, necessary because of "the prevailing security situation," a statement said.
Nigeria's Senate President David Mark, the country's third ranking political official, called the attack an "assassination".
"As a nation, we must just rise against those who are determined to return us to a state of nature where life had little or no value," the statement from his office said.
The long-running Fulani conflict in the state has been fueled by land tensions heightened by the area's religious divide.
The nomadic Fulani complain that they have been marginalised by the Birom, the Christian agriculturalist ethnic group that controls political power in the state.
The two victims of the Sunday attack were Birom, as were those killed in the Saturday raid that targeted two Christian villages, the governor's spokesman told AFP.
Fulani herdsmen in March 2010 launched a wave of attacks on five Christian Birom villages, slaughtering more than 500 people according to state officials.
Last month in neighbouring Kaduna state, coordinated church bombings by Boko Haram Islamists sparked reprisal violence by Christian youths who raided mosques and killed dozens of their Muslim neighbours, burning some of their bodies.
Boko Haram has targeted Jos in the past, but there is no apparent link between the Fulani violence and the radical Islamist sect.