On 26 January, unidentified gunmen waylaid and killed 15 traders and then set their bodies ablaze near Birnin Magaji town in Zamfara State.
Local sorces said the traders were attacked as they were returning from a market in neighbouring Katsina State. They said the gunmen, numbering about 100, sprang from the bush and forced the open truck, in which the traders were travelling, to stop.
The Commissioner of Police in Zamfara State, Mr Tambari Yabo Mohammed, said: “The armed robbers waylaid the traders travelling back in an open truck and opened fire on them. They then loaded the truck with 14 bodies and burnt them”. He said a 15th victim died in hospital.
Although the Police chief suggested the attack may have been a case of armed robbery, local sources said it may be linked to some earlier incidents in Lingyado village in Zamfara State.
On 10 August 2011, vigilantes from Lingyado had evicted a group of people from the village whom they suspected of being behind a series of cattle and other robberies. Those evicted regrouped and attacked the village on 2 October, killing 23 villagers.
Commenting on that attack, the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had said: “From the information I have received, the attackers who are nomadic Fulani, invited their comrades from as far as Central African Republic, for the raid”.
The first incident occurred in the village of Tsohon Foron. Witnesses said a group of gunmen, all dressed in black, raided the village at about 1.15am.
They said the attackers first shot in the air to create panic and terror in the village, before attacking their victims with machetes and guns. By the end of the attack, nine people lay dead while about 30 cattle had been stolen. Government officials said eight of those killed were of the same family, comprising a father and seven of his children. Five of the children were under 10 years old.
The second attack occurred in a nearby village called Kunsen Gashish. The attackers killed three people.
Plateau State in which the attacks occurred, lies in a region sometimes referred to as the “Middle Belt” of Nigeria, a zone of convergence between the mostly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south. The indigenous ethnic groups in the area, which are mostly Christian, are largely farmers; the more recent “settler” groups, notably the Fulani, are more of cattle rearers and herdsmen.
As the populations of these groups grew over the years, the struggle for control of local political offices and use of fertile lands grew increasingly intense. Poorly managed by governments, those tensions have since escalated in recurrent episodes of violence, particularly over the last two years.
On 26 January, several persons were killed in dawn attacks on four villages, by suspected Fulani herdsmen, in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State. However, the number of casualties is uncertain. The Plateau State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abdulrahman Akano, confirmed six deaths, but local people say the number may have been between 12 and 14. A woman, her daughter and one aged man were among those killed by the invaders.
According to the police commissioner, Fulani herdsmen whose 102 cattle and 12 sheep were rustled by the residents of Barkin Ladi on 21 January, staged the most recent attacks, partly to recover their stolen cows. They raided four villages, he said, namely: Jong, Sunkut, Luhana and Yelwa. He said in Jong village, three people were killed and three others seriously injured; in Sunkut village, three people were also killed while one was injured and many houses burnt. The police boss said he did not yet have casualty figures for the attack in Luhana at the time of briefing. He said in the fourth village, Yelwa, the villagers were able to repel the attackers and there were no casualties.