JOS, Nigeria – Gunmen set fire to a home in a Christian village near a central Nigeria city violently divided by faith and shot those who ran outside to flee the flames, killing at least seven people and wounding one other, authorities said Thursday.
The attack represents the latest killings spiraling out of unrest between Christians and Muslims living around the city of Jos, an area that has seen thousands killed in the last decade in fighting. That violence continues to go further and further out into rural villages, a potential sign that killings could again rage out of control.
The killings that took place late Wednesday night happened in the village of Tahoss, said Mark Lipdo, who runs a Christian advocacy group known as the Stefanos Foundation. The gunmen, suspected to be from the Muslim Fulani herdsmen who roam the pasturelands of the plateau, targeted one specific family in their attack, Lipdo said.
Local police spokesman Samuel Dabai said he visited Tahoss and saw the corpses. Dabai said police had begun an investigation into the attack.
These are just the latest killings to target the Riyom local government area, a rural, 800-square kilometer (300-square mile) region of farmlands that supply produces like potatoes, corn and tomatoes to the rest of the nation. Recent attacks there have killed at least 18 people before the violence Wednesday night.
Jos and surrounding Plateau state have been torn apart in recent years by violence pitting its different ethnic groups and major religions — Christianity and Islam — against each other. Human Rights Watch says at least 1,000 people were killed in communal clashes around Jos in 2010.
The violence, though fractured across religious lines, often has more to do with local politics and economics.
The government of Plateau state is controlled by Christian politicians who have blocked Muslims from being legally recognized as citizens. That has locked many out of prized government jobs in a region where the tourism industry and tin mining have collapsed in recent decades. Muslim herdsmen often carry out unprovoked attacks against Christian farmers over grazing and their cattle.
Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people, is largely divided into a Christian south and a Muslim north.