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Gunmen kill dozens in raid on Nigerian mining community

By Muhammad Tanko Shittu - AFP
Nigeria Plateau State often sees outbreaks of intercommunal violence, like here in January in Mangu district.  By Kola SULAIMON (AFP)
TUE, 21 MAY 2024 LISTEN
Plateau State often sees outbreaks of intercommunal violence, like here in January in Mangu district. By Kola SULAIMON (AFP)

Gunmen on motorbikes stormed a mining community in central Nigeria, killing up to 40 people and torching homes, residents said, in the latest violence to hit a region troubled by resource disputes and intercommunal strife.

The attack late on Monday took place in Plateau state, where in December nearly 200 people were killed in raids on mostly Christian villages.

Armed men invaded Zurak mining community in Wase district in the evening, shooting sporadically at residents and torching houses, Plateau state commissioner for information Musa Ibrahim Ashoms told AFP by telephone.

He initially gave an estimate of around 40 killed, but later said only nine had so far been confirmed dead after speaking to local officials as the situation was still unclear. More people had gunshot wounds and residents were searching for others reported missing.

Early accounts in attacks in remote areas like Zurak, on the border between Plateau and Taraba States, are often confused and full details emerge slowly.

But local residents and youth leader Shafi'i Sambo said at least 40 people had been killed in the raid.

"The attackers entered into the village Monday evening, staying till early morning of Tuesday, shooting at the local villagers, killing many," resident Adamu Saluwe told AFP, who also gave a figure of around 40.

"When people are preparing for the farming season, they were suddenly attacked, killed."

Residents buried some of the dead on Tuesday while others fled carrying their belongings, an AFP correspondent said.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the raid. Police and a military spokesman did not respond to requests for details.

Zurak is a predominantly Muslim community. Wase has deposits of zinc and lead, while Plateau as a whole is known for its tin mining industry.

Sitting on the dividing line between Nigeria's mostly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, Plateau often sees outbreaks of violence sparked by disputes between nomadic herders and pastoral farmers.

Climate change has helped escalate tensions over grazing land, water access and other resources such as the state's metal reserves.

Map of Nigeria locating Plateau State, where intercommunal violence often erupts.  By Kenan AUGEARD (AFP) Map of Nigeria locating Plateau State, where intercommunal violence often erupts. By Kenan AUGEARD (AFP)

Parts of northern and central Nigeria have also been terrorised by heavily armed criminal gangs, who loot villages and carry out mass kidnappings for ransom.

In December, almost 200 people were killed in Plateau's Bokkos and Barkin Ladi districts over several days of violence during the Christmas period.

A month later, intercommunal clashes erupted in Plateau's Mangu town that left churches and mosques burned, more than 50 people dead and thousands displaced.

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