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Wednesday, July 28, 1999 Published at 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK

World: Africa

Land battle in south-east Nigeria

At least 120 people have been killed in inter-communal clashes in south-eastern Nigeria, according to reports in local newspapers.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips: Bitter and violent conflict
Local police say the reported death toll is exaggerated, but have declined to give official figures.

"Fresh fighting has broken out between the Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra State resulting in the death of about 120 persons," the independent Vanguard newspaper reported.

The Daily Times newspaper quoted a witness as saying that bodies littered the streets in the town of Otuocha, and lay along the road between the Aguleri and Umuleri settlements.

Fighting had begun early on Monday and automatic gunfire was heard in the area of Ottuocha late on Tuesday, the witness said.

Long dispute

The two communities had recently signed a peace agreement to end fighting over a land dispute which dates back more than 80 years.

Fighting first broke out in April and left hundreds of people dead in battles which involved the use of dynamite and automatic weapons.

BBC Nigeria Correspondent Barnaby Phillips says the fighting is between two communities within the Ibo ethnic group, and is a local conflict.

The clashes are unconnected with recent fighting between members of the Yoruba and Hausa ethnic groups, in which at least 100 people have been killed in two distinct regions of Nigeria.

Fighting broke out in the south-eastern town of Sagamu 10 days ago, and later spread to the northern city of Kano.

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