At least 66 people, including women and children, have been killed in clashes between two rival ethnic groups in southeastern Nigeria, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in four states to crush the insurgency led by a radical Muslim group.
Death toll in a communal clash between two communities; Ezillo and Ezza in Ebonyi state of Nigeria have risen to 66 following the discovery of more corpses from bushes within Ezillo where gunmen opened fire on residents.
Children between the ages of three to five and women were among the victims of the attack and the head of crimes of a police station was also killed.
Prolonged land dispute between the communities led to the loss of 150 lives in 2010 forcing the state government to sack everybody from the disputed land bringing relative peace to the area.
The attack came a few hours after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in areas mostly affected by fundamentalist Muslim group, Boko Haram’s insurgency but the two scenarios remain different.
Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 6, Saidu Daya in the company of some youth from the area told the media that more bodies were recovered from bushes in the affected areas.
Land disputes are common in Nigeria’s and the most deadly was the Aguleri/Umuleri land dispute which lasted for decades and claimed thousands of lives in 1995.
The governor of Ebonyi state, Martin Elechi, in a radio broadcast, expressed dismay over the resurgence of the communal crisis which he thought has been resolved.
“The shock waves sent by the latest incident are not only because of the wantonness of the destruction, but also because it came at a time when Ebonyi people and other Nigerians thought that peace had returned,” he said.
Mr. Jonathan’s state of emergency affected the northern region where Boko Haram has been carrying out campaigns of bombings and shootings in order to enforce their belief that the entire country must come under Islamic rule.
The sect threw bomb on Christmas day on churchgoers killing not less than 44. The total number of deaths resulting from simultaneous attacks on other northern cities on the Christmas day has been put at 49.
Boko Haram sect has been waging a bloody conflict to install an Islamic government and Sharia rule in the country.
A suicide bomb attack by the group at the United Nations headquarters in Abuja in July killed 26 persons.
The 150-million Nigeria has both Muslim and Christian population, with Muslims predominant in the north while Christians mostly live in the South.