JOS, Nigeria (AP) — Violence across central and north Nigeria killed 21 people, as gunmen attacked both security forces and civilians in a region where ethnic and religious tensions still simmer, officials said Wednesday.
The majority of the killings happened in Plateau state, where rioting and violence between Christians and Muslims of different ethnic groups have killed hundreds in recent years. Gunmen killed 14 people belonging to a Christian ethnic group in the region in the Riyom local government area, said Mark Lipdo, who runs a Christian advocacy group called the Stefanos Foundation. The dead included three children and their mother, Lipdo said.
A police official told The Associated Press that authorities received information about the killings, but had yet to make any arrests. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to release information to journalists.
In Barkin Ladi, which is near the local airport, gunmen opened fire on a car, killing two Christians, locals said. Villagers later attacked a Muslim man in retaliation, killing him, locals said.
Plateau state has been torn apart in recent years by violence pitting its different ethnic groups and major religions — Christianity and Islam — against each other. Politics and economics also fuel fighting in this region of farmlands that supply basics like potatoes, corn and tomatoes to the rest of the nation.
Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people, is largely divided into a mainly Christian south and a mostly Muslim north. Violence-torn Plateau state is in the "middle belt" where the two meet, a region where violence can easily spark.
Meanwhile, in Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, gunmen killed two police officers Tuesday helping guard workers trying to give polio immunizations to local children, local police commissioner Ibrahim Idris said. Idris said police arrested several suspects in the killing, which targeted immunizations drives that locals have been suspicious of in the past after a Muslim leader spread rumors that the West used them to sterilize young girls.
On Wednesday, gunmen outside of Kano shot dead two officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps, a federal traffic agency, sector commander Zaki Alkali said. Alkali said the officials had been on a routine assignment checking vehicles. Another official was wounded in the attack, he said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the Kano attacks, though a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has carried out previous shootings in the city.
Associated Press writers Salisu Rabiu in Kano, Nigeria, and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report.