Heavily armed Fulani tribesmen have reportedly displaced more than 4,000 people following a series of attacks on villages in Nigeria’s Bauchi.
Attacks on the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area have continued despite the deployment of security personnel to the area, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Pastor Markus Kele of the Church of Christ in Nigeria was among those killed in Lim village in the most recent attack on Wednesday.
Church sources told CSW that around 463 homes, 11 shops and 13 churches have been set on fire in recent attacks on villages.
Tafawa Balewa is home mainly to non-Muslims belonging to the Tsayawa tribe. The area has been blighted by sectarian attacks since 1991 when a dispute between a Fulani herdsman and a Tsayawa meat seller sparked violent clashes that killed around 400 people and destroyed 1,000 villages and 173 churches.
Locals believe the attacks have been carried out by a group of around 2,000 militants from Niger, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto and other northern Nigerian states.
The attackers reportedly wear army and mobile police uniforms and the Bauchi Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria has received reports that the militants plan to “storm the area for fourteen days”.
Around 4,500 internally displaced people (IDPs) are staying in makeshift camps set up in primary schools in eight localities by Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
CSW Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said: “It is unacceptable that lives are being lost and such large-scale destruction is occurring despite the presence of additional security personnel in Tafawa Balewa.
“Moreover, given the area’s history of sectarian tension and violence, it would be profoundly disappointing if the Governor of Bauchi did indeed make the remarks attributed to him, as they would not only be deeply irresponsible, but are also unworthy of the premier public servant of any state.
“If these allegations prove to be true, then, clearly, the people of Tafawa Balewa can only be protected by urgent and effective security measures taken at federal level.”