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Dozens Killed In Central Nigeria Religious Attack

A series of attacks on villages in central Nigeria has left dozens dead, leading officials to issue a public call for peace during the Easter weekend.

The attacks are the result of religious tension between Muslims and Christians in the region, with Fulani Muslims targeting Christian villages in Plateau state. Plateau is the home of thousands of displaced Nigerians, and sits in the country’s Middle Belt, which divides the majority Christian south from the primarily Muslim north.

Plateau also hosts some of the country’s most fertile land, making its rural areas central points of contention. Officials announced that more than 50 people died during the week, the most recent coming Friday night in the Barkin Ladi area.

Security task force spokesman Lt. Jude Akpa said that gunmen believed to be Fulanis killed nine people in the village of Bokkos, injuring three others. An attack earlier in the week claimed 25 lives as police officers exchanged gunfire with Fulani attackers.

Some of Plateaus rural areas have only one police officer guarding a village, and they too are left vulnerable to violence. In the Riyom district, two officers were ambushed and killed during their patrol Monday. Fulani people have also been the target of retaliatory attacks by Christian villagers, creating further tension. Human Rights Watch reports that more than 1,000 people were killed as the result of ethnic violence in Plateau in 2010, with entire villages being slain by attackers.

Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has been heavily involved in attacks across the country as well as in Plateau. The group is responsible for bombings within Jos, the state capital, and has threatened to invade the city. Last year Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the deaths of hundreds in the region, committing mass killings in multiple villages. The attacks are a part of the groups proclaimed jihad against Nigerian Christians.

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