Gunmen kill dozens in attack on Nigerian mining community

Nigeria  AFP - Kola Sulaimon
© AFP - Kola Sulaimon

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 on Wase district in Plateau state was the latest violence in an area which has long been a flashpoint for disputes over resources and for outbreaks of intercommunal clashes.

Armed men invaded Zurak community, shooting sporadically and torching houses, Plateau state commissioner for information Musa Ibrahim Ashoms told French news agency 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," said resident Adamu Saluwe, who also gave a figure of around 40.

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

Outbreaks of violence

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

Parts of northwest and northcentral Nigeria have also been terrorised by heavily armed criminal gangs, who raid villages to loot 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.