The local administration announced on Thursday that the death toll from a bomb blast that killed a group of herders in Nasarawa State, Central Nigeria has increased from 27 to 40.
The explosion on Wednesday happened in the community of Rukubi, which is on the border of the states of Nasarawa and Benue and is notorious for racial and religious conflict.
“We now have approximately 40 people that were killed,” Nasarawa Governor Abdullahi Sule told reporters on Thursday.
“The rumor earlier was that the air force carried out the bombing but right now we understand that there was no air force plane that flew (above) the area,” Sule said.
“Instead it was a drone that flew (above) the area and dropped the bomb,” Sule said, without specifying who was operating the aircraft.
An umbrella group representing herders had said the explosion was caused by a Nigerian military jet.
“We all know it is only the military that possess jets to carry out aerial strikes,” Lawal Dano of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria said Wednesday, calling for a government investigation.
The military has unintentionally killed civilians with airstrikes in the past in northern Nigeria, where soldiers are battling militants and insurgents.
Officials said that at least nine civilians were killed in a mistaken airstrike by the Nigerian military on a village in Yobe state in September 2021. According to the air force, an insurgent group had been being pursued nearby by a plane.
In the town of Rann, close to the Cameroonian border, a jet struck a camp housing people who had been displaced by terrorist warfare in January 2017, killing at least 112 people.
In a report released six months later, the Nigerian military attributed that bombardment on a “lack of sufficient labeling of the area.”
Herders and farmers have been fighting over pasture and water rights in central Nigeria for decades, but in recent years the violence has gotten worse after some herders joined gangs that assault towns.
The majority of herders in the dispute are Muslims, whereas the majority of farmers are Christians, adding to the conflict’s ethnic and religious aspects.
According to local authorities, nine people were killed last Thursday when suspected herders opened fire outside a camp for persons displaced by assaults close to Makurdi, the capital of Benue state.
Prior to the elections to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general, security is a key concern in Nigeria.
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