ABUJA, Nigeria – Fighters of a predominantly Christian tribe attacked a Nigerian town dominated by a rival Muslim ethnic group, razing homes and mosques and killing at least 80 people, Nigerian police said Tuesday.
The ethnic Tarok (search) assailants, armed with machetes, British colonial-era muskets and homemade guns, attacked the predominantly Hausa (search) town of Yelwa, 210 miles east of the capital of Abuja, Monday morning, said Raymond Nyama, a police officer who visited the scene.
Although the motive was unclear, the attack came a week after Hausas launched an attack on the Tarok village of Kawo, burning churches and inflicting an unknown number of casualties.
Police counted 80 bodies in the streets following Monday's attack, Nyama added. An unknown number of mosques were burned.
Nigeria's ThisDay newspaper put the death toll at 100 or more, with three mosques and more than 1,000 homes destroyed.
Tens of thousands of residents were fleeing the area on foot, carrying whatever possessions they could carry, police said.
The Christian Tarok farmers and predominantly Muslim Hausa traders and cattle herdsmen have launched back-and-forth raids since an outbreak of religious violence in the city of Jos left more than 1,000 people dead in 2001.
Since January, violence has surged, killing hundreds in the region of fertile farms and pastures, police and civic groups say.
Religious, ethnic and political enmities have fueled outbreaks of communal bloodletting resulting in more than 10,000 killed since President Olusegun Obasanjo (search) was first elected in 1999, ending 15 years of repressive military rule.