AT LEAST 16 people, including two priests, are believed to have been killed in an attack on a church in central Nigeria.
A police spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the attack took place at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday, in Benue State, an area affected by ongoing conflict between farming communities and Fulani herdsmen.
The Roman Catholic diocese of Makurdi confirmed that two of its priests had died in the attack, which it blamed on herdsmen.
Witnesses said that the attackers stormed the mass being held at 5.30 a.m. in St Ignatius’s RC Church in Mbalom, before setting light to homes near by. Some local news reports suggested that the dead could number as many as 19.
The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, an ethnic Fulani, has been accused by critics of failing to crack down on the violence.
In a statement after the attack, he said: “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.”
Benue State lies in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt, which separates the predominantly Muslim north from the largely Christian south. At least 72 people died there in a few days of violence in early January (News, 5 January, 12 January).