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Guns Blast in Benue State

FILE - Mtonga Iliamgee, an internally displaced person, prepares flour as the first meal for her family inside the camp in Benue State in north central Nigeria. Taken Jan 6, 2022.

Gunmen have killed nine people displaced by intercommunal violence in central Nigeria's Benue state, where a deadly conflict between herders and farmers often flares, an official told AFP Friday.

Suspected Fulani herders killed nine people late Thursday when they opened fire on a crowd at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp on the outskirts of the state capital Makurdi, Paul Hemba, security adviser to the Benue State governor.

"We buried nine victims of the unprovoked attack by Fulani herdsmen, including a child and its mother," Hemba said about the attack.

He said two of the victims had been decapitated. Eight other people were injured in the attack, three of them critically, he said.

A spokesman for the national Fulani herders association was not immediately available for comment.

Benue governor Sam Ortom has come under criticism before for his hardline stance on Fulani herder communities who he blames for the violence in his state.

Fulani herders are Muslims and the local farmers are largely Christians in Benue.

The herder-farmer friction, which has roots dating back more than a century, has been exacerbated by droughts, population growth, poor governance and the expansion of sedentary farming into communal areas.

Violence by criminal gangs among the herders called bandits by locals, who raid villages, killing and burning homes after looting them, has compounded the situation.

In November last year 18 people were killed when suspected Fulani herders opened fire on a market in Ukohol village, eight kilometers outside Makurdi while another 18 were killed the previous month in Gbeji farming village in Ukum district, according to officials.