BosNewsLife

A group of Muslim herdsmen disguised as soldiers "butchered" and then burned over a dozen Christians Wednesday, 17th March, in a small Christian village in central Nigeria, near the location where hundreds were killed last week, witnesses and officials said.

The attackers were also seen cutting out most of the victims' tongues, in the latest violence in a region where religious fighting already has seen several massacres this year, news agencies reported.

Officials said the attack resembled tactics used by those who carried out similar massacres in Christian villages last week when some local authorities said over 500 people were slaughtered, although other sources put the death toll at roughly half that figure.

Witnesses reported that under the cover of darkness and a driving rain, raiders with machetes entered the village of Byie early Wednesday, 17th March, setting fire to homes and firing gunshots into the air to drive frightened villagers into the night.

"I can confirm that 13 people have died while six others have been critically injured," Information Commissioner Gregory Yenlong told the French news agency AFP.

A reporter at the scene of the carnage in Byei village said that he had counted 12 bodies which bore deep machete cuts and had been partially burned.

The dead included seven women and four children, other news reports said.

It came as international Christian aid workers tried to reach attacked villages located in the area of Jos, the capital of Nigeria's Plateau state. Christian advocacy and relief group Open Doors USA said it is planning to send $65,000 of emergency relief to Christian victims of last week's massacre.

"On March 7 a Muslim attack on the Christian village of Dogo Nahawa left between 300 and 500 dead, hundreds wounded and families mourning the loss of loved ones. Also, 75 homes were destroyed," the group explained.

"Persecuted Christians in the Jos area need emergency relief now," said Open Doors USA chief Carl Moeller."Open Doors is committed to long-term rebuilding of Christian communities through holistic care, but first we muststop the bleeding," he said.

The latest killings add to the tally of thousands who already have perished in Africa's most populous country in the last decade over religious and political frictions, according to observers. Rioting in September 2001 killed over 1,000 people.

Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004. More than 300 residents died during a similar uprising in 2008, reported AFP.

There has been mounting concerns among Christians in the area about the apparent inability of Nigerian security forces to halt the killings. Jos, once a tourist destination, is described as an explosive fault line between Muslims and Christians in the African nation.

Analysts say the latest convulsion of violence is bound to complicate any peace process as the talk has shifted to revenge and pre-emptive attacks. The violence is also seen as a struggle between ethnic groups for fertile lands and political power in the region known as Nigeria's Middle Belt.

Analysts say the latest convulsion of violence is bound to complicate any peace process as the talk has shifted to revenge and pre-emptive attacks, the Voice of America (VOA) network reported from the region.

The violence is also seen as a struggle between ethnic groups for fertile lands and political power in the region known as Nigeria's Middle Belt. 

~ With VOA's Gilbert da Costa reporting from Abuja, Nigeria and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center.