JOS, Nigeria: Raids and reprisal attacks have left 52 people dead in Christian villages near a Nigerian city where authorities have struggled to contain religious violence, officials said Sunday. Mustapha Salisu, spokesman for a special task force made up of policemen and soldiers deployed in the area to curb years of violence, said assailants launched “sophisticated attacks” on several villages near Jos early Saturday.
“They came in hundreds,” said Salisu, “Some had [police] uniforms and some even had bulletproof vests.”
He said the task force fought for hours and lost two policemen in battle.
He said 37 people were killed including 14 civilians and 21 assailants.
However, later in the day, Nigerian Red Cross Andronicus Adeyemo said that aid workers had counted 52 dead and more 300 displaced people from the attacks. He did not give a breakdown.
He said two lawmakers were ambushed and killed Sunday afternoon on their way to the victims’ mass burial.
Authorities declined to comment on who they suspect, but similar raids have been blamed on Muslim herdsmen.
Mark Lipdo, who runs a Christian advocacy group known as the Stefanos Foundation, gave a list of the 13 villages where he got reports of attacks. He said they were all Christian.
He blamed Muslim herdsmen of the Fulani ethnic group for the attacks. However, Nurudeen Abdullahi, Plateau State Chairman of Miyetti Allah Fulani Herdsmen Association, denied any involvement by the herdsmen.
“This [is] a usual propaganda used on our people but we are not the ones that attacked the villages in the area,” he said