Nigeria's "Middle Belt" recoils from repeated violence
By Mark Caldwell
War is taking place against Christians in Nigeria. Muslim attackers get weapons from network of Muslim radicals around the world. The government of Nigeria must do more to protect the Christians.
07/09/2012 Nigeria (DW)-Dozens of suspected gunmen have been arrested as Nigeria's president promised tough action after more than 100 people were killed in raids in Plateau state. The dead include a senator and a state lawmaker.
Senator Gyang Dantong and Gyang Fulani from the Plateau House of Assembly were among 22 other mourners who were killed when gunmen opened fire on a mass burial.
As news of their killing spread, mobs set up roadblocks, prompting Governor Jonah Jang to impose an immediate dusk-to-dawn curfew in four areas.
Police sources said on Monday at least 25 gunmen had been arrested in connection with the attacks.
The villages had come under siege by attackers, who were dressed in camouflage military uniforms and bulletproof military vests. They roamed from one house top another attacking for nearly two hours.
Local media report that victims of the village raids included women, children and elderly people who had sought safety in the residence of the local pastor. The attackers surrounded the house and set it ablaze with the victims trapped inside.
A spokesman for a special task force of policemen and soldiers deployed to curb violence in the area said they had fought the attackers for hours and had lost two policemen in the battle.
Pam Ayuba, a spokesperson for Governor Jonah Jang, blamed herdsmen from the Fulani ethnic group for the attacks on the villages and the subsequent raid on the mass burial in which Senator Dantong, majority leader in the state assembly, was killed.
The Fulani, who are Muslim pastoralists, are involved in a conflict heightened by tensions over land and the area's religious divide.
Plateau state falls in Nigeria's "Middle Belt" region, which separates the country's mainly Muslim north from its mostly Christian south.
The nomadic Fulani complain that they have been marginalized by the Birom, the Christian agriculturalist ethnic group that controls political power in the state.
Last month in neighboring Kaduna state, coordinated church bombings by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram sparked reprisal violence.
Nigeria's Senate President David Mark, the country's third ranking political official, called the attack on Senator Dantong "an assassination."
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the Senator's death was "cruel and regrettable" and that security agencies had been ordered to track down his killers.