500 Christian farmers killed in Nigeria, survivors afraid to bury dead

The leader of the displaced Fulani herdsmen Haruna Usman (L) sits next to children from his tribe during an exclusive interview with Reuters in Barkin Kogi, Zango Kataf, Kaduna State March 22, 2014. | REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde

Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria have killed almost 500 farmers in Nigeria --- most of them Christians --- in the last month, and the villagers are still too afraid to come out and bury their dead.

On Feb. 22, the radical Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked the Agatu farmers, and came back the following week and killed at least 300 people. Some of the attackers are still hiding in the deserted and burned down villages, and corpses are still scattered in the field in Benue state, The Christian Post reports.

In an interview with Morning Star News, development advocate Steven Enada described the situation in the area after Aku, Aila, Ikobi, Odugbeho, and Okokolo were destroyed. He said the survivors of the attack are too afraid to return even just to bury the dead.

"In the last three weeks, Aku, Odugbeho, Aila, Okokolo and Ikobi have been utterly destroyed and over 300 people have been killed," Enada told Morning Star. "We have corpses littered in the field like a war fought in the Roman Empire by Emperor Nero."

The Fulani herdsmen have accused the Christian farmers of killing 10,000 cows, but the villagers have denied the accusation. Human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe said the villagers do not have the means to slaughter a large number of cows, and it would take weeks to finish the task.

Ogebe thinks the attack stems from religious motives. He points out that if the attackers only wanted revenge, then they should have left already after the killing. Ogebe thinks they want to carry out jihad to take over the deserted villages.

International Christian Concern (ICC) says historical tension over cattle grazing and farming rights have existed in the region. However, the mass killing could be due to more than just tribal tension, the group adds.

In February, ICC Regional Manager for Africa urged Nigerian officials to protect locals from violent threats and not allow tolerate these crimes.

President Muhammadu Buhari had already ordered an investigation into the conflict between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers in the Benue state. However, the deadly attacks still have not ended.