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75 killed in fresh attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christian community in Nigeria

(Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)A man walks past a Fulani house made of leaves in Kaduna, Nigeria January 9, 2017.

At least 75 people were found dead after a series of recent attacks carried out by Fulani herdsmen on the predominantly Christian community of Miango in Nigeria's Plateau state.

Jerry Datim, a religious leader from the Bassa local government area, noted that the first attack took place on Jan. 24 when Fulani militants killed three people before moving to another village, Jebbu Bassa, where they killed three more people and burned down a number of properties. He said that the militants continued their attacks, unchallenged, throughout the week.

The religious leader noted that the situation seemed to have abated until the militants launched two fresh attacks on Feb. 4, as two Christians were killed on their farm, while another, in a different village, was killed in his garden.

A total of 14 villages were reportedly targeted in the attacks, with 89 houses set on fire and vast swaths of land destroyed by the assailants.

Dalim said that he was disappointed that the state government has not spoken out against the killing spree.

"Political leaders in the state have failed to protect the people from the Fulani attackers because they fear that President Muhammadu Buhari may move against any politician that goes against the Fulani, who are Buhari's kinsmen," he told World Watch Monitor.

The religious leader noted that some of the affected communities have just finished fixing the roofs of houses that were burned down in another attack in October, but now the houses have been burnt again.

Some believe that the recent attacks were carried out due to the dispute over stolen cows. Mallam Nuru Abdullah, the Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders of Nigeria (MACBAN), an association of Fulani herders, have issued a statement saying some of its members had lost 350 cows and 54 sheep in Ganawuri and Rafiki. He alleged that the cattle may have been stolen by the natives of the area and threatened revenge if the livestock was not recovered.

MACBAN reportedly issued another statement two days later, saying some cows had been recovered alive, but others were found dead.

In response, the Irigwe Development Association (IDA), which is comprised of local farmers, denied knowledge of the lost cattle, saying its farmers have no interest in livestock because their occupation is farming.

Ive Gulu, the publicity secretary of IDA, has accused MACBAN of using the lost cattle as a ploy to find a reason to carry out its "sinister plan" of attacking the community again, and warned security agencies of another imminent attack.

A military spokesman also refuted the claims of MACBAN, saying only 53 cattle had been missing and almost all were recovered.

In December, the Nigerian Air Force launched air strikes at villages in the country's north-eastern Adamawa State in an attempt to deter spiraling communal violence between Fulani herdsmen and Christian residents.

Amnesty International has condemned the air strikes, saying it is not a "legitimate law enforcement method by anyone's standard."

"Such reckless use of deadly force is unlawful, outrageous and lays bare the Nigerian military's shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect," Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said in a statement.

Locals have provided Amnesty with 86 names of the people who were killed that day. Those who were involved in burying the victims said that 51 had gunshot or machete wounds, while Amnesty had estimated that the remaining 35 were killed as a result of the air strikes.

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