Inter-religious clashes kill eight, burn mosques and churches in Nigeria

The clashes erupted after gunmen tried to stole cattle from Muslim herders.

A dispute over cattle sparked a deadly conflict between religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria’s central Plateau state, resulting in the burning of mosques and churches.

The violence in Mangu, a town 74km (45 miles) south-east of the state capital Jos, claimed the lives of eight people on Tuesday, when some cattle ran loose on a road and obstructed traffic. The state governor has declared a 24-hour curfew in the area to prevent further bloodshed, but has allowed the funeral rites for the victims to proceed.

Plateau state is a flashpoint of inter-communal clashes that often escalate into sectarian and ethnic killings. The state lies at the crossroads of the predominantly Muslim north and the largely Christian south, and hosts a variety of communities with different beliefs and cultures.

The latest incident involved the Fulani, a Muslim group of nomadic herders, and the Mwagaful, a Christian group of farmers. According to Ado Musa, a journalist who reported for the Daily Trust newspaper, the trouble started when some gunmen attempted to rob the Fulani of their cattle. The robbery failed, but the cattle scattered during the exchange of gunfire, creating havoc on the road and angering other residents. “Before you could say ‘Jack’ violence erupted which led to deaths and destruction,” Musa told the BBC. He said he witnessed six mosques and two churches being torched by young men from both sides.

The situation remains tense, as there are unconfirmed reports of continued fighting on Wednesday despite the curfew.

The clashes in Mangu are not related to the political turmoil that occurred in Jos on Tuesday, when police used tear gas to disperse some lawmakers who wanted to enter the state assembly. The lawmakers were protesting a court ruling that annulled their election in March last year.

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