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JOS, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) - Recent clashes between Muslim herdsmen and Christian farmers in Nigeria have left more than 120 dead.
In Plateau State in central Nigeria, Christian farmer on June 21 allegedly attacked a group of Fulani herdsmen — semi-nomadic members of the Muslim-majority Fulani ethnic group. The next day, two children were killed in local villages, presumably in retaliation.
Local Protestant leader Pam Chollom claims that Fulani militants attacked mourners returning from a Christian funeral service. Chollom said, "Herdsmen attacked our members who attended the burial of the father to one of our clergy, Baba Jakawa."
Some victims of the attacks were buried in a mass grave.
For several years, there has been tension between the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and the Christian Beromi farmers, but recent months have seen the tension explode into violence, with Christians often being the victims.
International secular news outlets are attributing the violence to factors besides religion. They point out that the Fulani claim to be retaliating for stealing cattle.
State authorities and Fulani representatives put the blame on the Berom, the farmers' ethnic group. They accuse Berom youth of stealing or killing cows from Fulani herds.
"These attacks are retaliatory," said a spokesman for Fulani advocacy group Miyetti Allah.
The spokesman claimed that "Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks ... to armed Berom youths."
International news reports have framed the violence in central Nigeria as a fight over resources, even blaming global warming as a factor.
Along with religious and ethnic differences, the Fulani militants are angry at a new policy against open cattle grazing, passed into law by the Nigerian government in November 2017. The ban was supposed to deter clashes between Fulani herdsmen and Berom farmers, but the policy appears to have had little impact, as Fulani attacks skyrocketed this year.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made an in-person visit to Plateau State on Tuesday, announcing the government's plans to ramp up safety and help communities rebuild.
Buhari's critics say his response is too little too late. They note that he is himself a Muslim of Fulani descent, suggesting he may be sympathetic to the Fulani militants.
An anonymous Catholic priest in Nigeria told Church Militant in May, "Our Muslim brethren won't allow us [to] be."
He continued, "For many, many years they have been holding us in bondage, graduating from Boko Haram terrorist group to Fulani herdsmen terrorist group."
The Fulani violence comes as Nigeria is still wrestling with remnants of Boko Haram, an infamous Muslim terror organization. Boko Haram wreaked havoc on rural parts of Nigeria, plotting deadly terror attacks and causing a refugee crisis.
In April, Fulani militants in Nigeria shot up a Catholic church during Mass, killing 16 people — including two priests. In May, armed herdsmen broke into a Catholic seminary, injuring two priests and damaging some personal property.