Herdsmen thought to be from the mostly Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic group armed with machetes killed six people in a village near Jos, central Nigeria on Tuesday in a raid reminiscent of ethnic clashes in which hundreds died earlier this year.
This comes as Nigeria’s secret police, SSS, intercept weapons shipment. A large shipment of weapons has been seized by Nigeria’s State Security Service at the port in Lagos city.
The secret police say they intercepted 13 containers some of which had rocket launchers and grenades and other explosives hidden in the floorboards.
The attackers raided the small Christian village of Rawhinku, some 10 km (6 miles) east of the city of Jos, Plateau State in the early hours of the morning, residents said.
“Six people were killed in similar murders to those in Dogo Nahawa. Three others sustained various degrees of injuries,” said Kingsley Umoh, spokesman for a special military and police taskforce in the region.
Dogo Nahawa, just south of Jos, was one of the villages that bore the heaviest casualties during clashes between Muslim herders and mostly Christian villagers in January and March.
President Goodluck Jonathan — who was then the country’s acting leader — deployed hundreds of soldiers and police to quell the clashes between mobs armed with guns, machetes and knives, but periodic attacks have continued.
Thousands of people have died over the past decade in religious and ethnic violence in the “Middle Belt” of Africa’s most populous nation, where the mostly-Muslim north meets the predominantly Christian south.
The tension is rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with migrants and settlers from the north.
On the weapons catchment, an SSS spokeswoman could not say who owned the seized containers or their intended destination.
But correspondents say the discovery has increased fears of possible violence during next year’s elections.
The ship’s manifest said it was carrying building materials. So far only one container has been searched.
“We have made some arrests, but for now the number and names cannot be disclosed,” SSS spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar told newsmen.
Security agencies say there have increased surveillance at Lagos port following the bombings on 1 October during celebrations of the 50th anniversary of independence.
In the past politicians have armed young men to use as their private armies and to rig elections.
Oil militants in the Niger Delta – many of whom have disarmed – were originally armed in this way.
A militant group which did not sign an agreement with the government in 2009 to end years of unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta region is believed to be behind the independence day blasts.
There has been serious controversy on who sponsors the current militants.
One cynical observer noted he is waiting for the first opposition politician that would suggest that the Federal Government brought in the “33 Containers” so they can blame it on their Political Opponents or “Henry Okah & Co?”.