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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Villagers 'massacred' in Nigeria

Villagers in central Nigeria say more than 50 people were killed two days ago in an attack by youths from a rival ethnic group.

The news comes amid worsening ethnic clashes in Nasawara state which have forced tens of thousands of people from their homes.

Residents of Tudun Adabu, who belong to the Egon ethnic group, told the BBC's Barnaby Phillips they were woken in the early hours of Tuesday morning when Tiv warriors launched a surprise attack.


There are many casualties in the hospitals... They were killing us everywhere

Simon Maku, community leader
Fighting between the Tiv ethnic group and several other groups erupted two weeks ago, reportedly triggered by the murder of a prominent chief from a rival Hausa-speaking community.

Our correspondent says witnesses in Tudun Adabu reported that young children, old women and local chiefs had been killed with machetes in an orgy of violence.

"There are many casualties in the hospitals... they were killing us everywhere," community leader Simon Maku speaking told the French news agency AFP.

Rioting

The arrival of some of the bodies from the village in the local state capital, Lafia, reportedly provoked rioting there on Tuesday.

In Lafia, bands of militia men belonging to various Hausa-speaking groups are patrolling the roads, armed with bows and arrows and spears and on the lookout for Tivs.

The police are nowhere to be seen. Further south, Tiv militias carrying homemade guns are protecting small towns from where all the women and children have fled.

They say it is the Tivs who have come under indiscriminate attack.

Our correspondent says that on both sides of this war there is fear and hatred.

At least 35,000 Tiv people are reported to have fled the state, and some are now living in squalid refugee camps to the south.

Reinforcements

The government has pledged to send police reinforcements into the region following an emergency meeting with local officials.

The governor of Nasarawa told the BBC that with a greater police presence, the situation could be brought under control.

However, the conflict is as complicated as the ethnic composition of central Nigeria.

Several Hausa-speaking ethnic groups in Nasarawa regard the Tivs as settlers and feel their control of land, chieftaincy titles and commerce is being threatened.

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See also:

23 Jun 01 | Africa
Thousands flee Nigeria clashes
20 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
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