The Police Command in Benue has confirmed the killing of 16 people, including two Catholic priests, in fresh attacks on Mbalon community in Gwer Local Government Area.
Rev. Fr. Moses Iorapuu, a spokesman for the Catholic Church, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the attackers struck during the early morning mass.
All houses of the village were destroyed as a result of the incident.
The latest killing has sparked up tension around the popular Wurukum area of Makurdi, a development which had made the police to draft its men to the area to forestall any crisis.
In a Facebook post on 3 January, Father Gor reportedly wrote that his community was "Living in fear". The fulani herdsmen are still around us in Mbalom. They refuse to go. In fact, we have been receiving calls from several youth organisations, students' bodies, workers' unions and civil society groups expressing their support and solidarity with our move. "No weapons to depend on ourselves".
Kiruwa said they were in Edo State to sensitise the herdsmen on how to avoid conflict and live peacefully with their host communities.
Over 53 persons were killed in separate attacks in Gwer East and Guma LGAs of the state on Tuesday, forcing the state governor, Samuel Ortom to cut short his 12-day vacation. On 18 April, the Defence Headquarters reportedly admitted that troops deployed in Benue, Taraba and other trouble spots had been withdrawn due to an acute shortage of financial and logistical resources.
He noted there were over 170,000 internally displaced persons before the Naka invasion, adding that with the situation on the ground in Mbalom, Benue would be flooded with thousands more.
"The diocese has been active in providing relief materials including education and skills acquisition lessons".
"We see the constant attacks and killings by suspected herdsmen and Boko Haram as barbaric and satanic acts, which no doubt remains a serious threat to the peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria".
"The herdsmen came and opened fire on the church while morning mass was going on", Iorver told New Telegraph, a local newspaper.
The deceased priests were identified as Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha.
The conflict has a negative impact on Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, of the Fulani ethnic group, to whom his opponents accuse of excessive tolerance towards what they describe as excesses of the ranchers.