At least 20 Christians were killed in their sleep after suspected Fulani herdsmen carried out an attack on a village in Nigeria's Plateau state in the early hours of Friday.
The state Commissioner of Police, Peter Ogunyanwo, told reporters in Jos on Friday that the preliminary investigation had indicated that Fulani herdsmen were responsible for the attack on Ancha village.
John Bulus, the church secretary of Salama Baptist Church-Ancha, noted that nine of the 20 victims were children, ranging in age from 3 months to 17 years old.
Police said that the attack was carried out in retaliation for the murder of a Fulani boy, who was found beheaded last week.
"We are investigating the matter, but from our findings so far, the attack was carried out by Fulani herdsmen to avenge the killing of a young boy," Ogunyanwo said, according to Sahara Reporters.
"We have been told that a Fulani boy resident in the village was reported missing on August 3. We are told that his body was later found without the head," he added.
A local Christian said that the terrified residents cannot understand why the village was targeted, as the murder of the boy took place at another village.
Bulus maintained that the Christian residents at Ancha have never had any problems with the Fulani, who have a settlement a few kilometers away.
He recounted that on Sept. 2, the Christian villagers saw the herdsmen moving their families and cattle out of their camp. When they asked the herdsmen about their sudden departure, they were told that a member of the Fulani community was killed some time ago in another village located five kilometers away.
"We never knew that these same Fulanis would return to attack us, as there is nothing that warrants an attack on us," Bulus told Morning Star News.
He said that he recognized some of the assailants but not all of them, adding that some villagers believe that the herdsmen were accompanies by Islamic extremists.
"I can confidently tell you that some of the persons among those who attacked us are local Fulani herdsmen who lived close to our village," he said.
According to Morning Star News, Ogunyanwo had underreported the number of victims, saying there were only seven children killed, and that only five people had been injured.
The Commissioner said that five suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder of the Fulani boy, but none had been apprehended in the massacre in Ancha village. He added that security had been deployed to the area to prevent another attack, and warned the residents against taking the law into their own hands.