At least 16 people have been confirmed dead following an attack on Tuesday on a church congregation in a central state of Nigeria plagued by communal violence.
Confirming the incident, the police spokesman Moses Yamu said the attack took place around 6am in the village of Ayar Mbalom in Gwer East Local government authority.
“Sixteen persons were confirmed killed, including two priests,” said Yamu.
The bloody clashes, linked to grazing rights and dwindling fertile land, have now raised questions about the government’s ability to maintain security in the country.
Some 73 people were killed in central states – known as the “Middle Belt” – in the first few days of 2018, prompting a high- profile mass burial in Benue state’s capital, Makurdi.
The latest killings were described as “heinous” by President Buhari, who vowed to improve security when he took office in May 2015.
“Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” he said in a statement.
Herdsmen involved in the communal violence are mainly Muslims from the Fulani ethnic group, while members of the settled farming communities are mostly Christian. Attacks have been carried out by both sides.