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ICC Note: In response to a recent attack where as many as 169 have been killed, the Nigerian government has come up with a new security initiative in hopes to minimize conflict in the Middle Belt region. A curfew has been declared along with other measures to hopefully disincentivize the killings and create fewer opportunities for unexpected attacks on Christian villages.

06/26/2018 Nigeria (The Telegraph) – Nigeria is to launch a major security operation after a wave of retaliatory violence between Christians and Muslims claimed as many as 169 lives in the center of the country.

A curfew was declared in Plateau State in an attempt to end one of the deadliest episodes of an increasingly bloody conflict between Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers that has swept large parts of Africa’s most populous country.

With fears mounting that Nigeria is slipping into an inter-communal war, Muhammadu Buhari, the country’s president, condemned the latest bloodshed as “deeply unfortunate.”

His police chief, Ibrahim Idris, announced the deployment of a special force in Plateau.

“The intervention is to put an end to the violence,” he said.

Police officials said the latest round of clashes erupted on Thursday when Christian farmers from Plateau’s native Berom tribe killed five Muslim Fulani cattle herders they accused of trespassing on their land.

The Fulani, who mainly come from northern Nigeria, retaliated with a wave of attacks on six villages in the Barkin Ladi region of Plateau State. In one incident, the two young children of a clergyman were hacked to death, according to a local Christian rights group.

Officials in the state put the death toll at 120, while some activists said that 169 had died. Nigeria’s police, frequently accused of understating death tolls, said 86 people were killed.

Fighting between the semi-nomadic Fulani and sedentary farmers has been common in parts of Nigeria for decades, but never has the situation been as serious as it is today.

More than 1,000 people have been killed since the start of the year, making Nigeria’s cattle wars more deadly than the Islamist insurgency waged by the Boko Haram militant group in the north of the country.

The violence has been attributed to many factors. More frequent droughts, blamed on global warming, have driven Fulani herdsmen further afield in search of pasture.

The cattle route they once plied have been closed off by a rising population of farmers in the country’s fertile central regions, where much of the violence is taking place, and by the corrupt allocation of land.

Northern Nigeria is also awash with weapons, many of which flowed out of Libya after the collapse of authority following the death of its strongman Muammar Gaddafi — making the conflict more brutal than it once was.

Worryingly, the conflict is increasingly being framed in Nigeria as a religious one, with Christians accusing the Fulani of mounting an Islamist takeover.

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