Gunmen kill villagers in raid on Nigerian mining site

Gunmen on motorbikes killed up to 40 people while torching homes during an attack on a mining village in central Nigeria, officials and residents said Tuesday, in the latest violence to hit a region troubled by resource disputes and intercommunal strife.

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

Armed men invaded the 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 about 40 killed, but later said only nine had been confirmed dead after speaking to local officials, as the situation was still unclear.

Other people had gunshot wounds and residents were searching for others reported missing.

Plateau state police later said criminals had attacked Zurak and the village of Dakai, killing nine people and setting ablaze six homes.

According to the police statement the attackers were fleeing a security forces’ operation against “bandits” using the Bangalala forest as a hideout.

Police said nine bandits had been killed in the operation.

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

Local 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,” another 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,” he said.

– Burying the dead –

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

The community is predominantly Muslim and lives off the mines. Wase has deposits of zinc and lead, while Plateau as a whole is known for tin mining.

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 contributed to escalating tensions over grazing land, water access and other resources such as the state’s metal reserves.

Parts of northern and central Nigeria have also been terrorised by heavily armed gangs that 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.

AFP

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