At least three herders have been killed and seven others injured after gunmen opened fire in a market in Taraba State on Saturday, police and witnesses said.
The attack occurred at Mararraban Kunini, a major livestock trading community in Lau Local Government Area.
The police in Taraba told PREMIUM TIMES the killers are still at large as of Sunday afternoon.
The Mararraban Kunini Market was recently opened following an ethno-religious conflict that engulfed Mayo-Lope town, which was formerly home to the central cattle market. The violence forced most of the traders in Mayo-Lope to flee the community.
Witnesses who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the latest attack said the gunmen stormed the market at the peak of business Saturday afternoon.
“People were busy buying and selling cattle, sheep and goats and farm produce” when gunmen suddenly appeared and opened fire, a witness said.
“Three traders were killed instantly and 11 others injured as I am talking to you now,’’ Mallum Kawu, a cattle dealer who said he narrowly escaped the attack, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Josiah Bante, a used clothes trader, said people fled in different direction to escape the violence.
The attackers did not steal cows or any other merchandise at the market, indicating they only came to wreak havoc, Mr Bante said.
The police confirmed the attack on Sunday, with David Misal, an assistant superintendent of police, saying the police were informed of three deaths while seven persons sustained injuries.
No arrests have been made, but security measures in the area have been intensified to avoid further bloodshed, the police spokesperson said.
The attack followed an indiscriminate killing of cows in Taraba-Abbare town in the same local government area on Thursday.
At least 150 cows were killed during the attack, according to community leaders who are now demanding urgent intervention by the Nigerian military and other security agencies.
The attackers were said to be clad in military fatigues, a claim that security agencies have not disputed.
Dozens of cows that were injured in the attack were later taken to food markets in Jalingo, the state capital. Some herders reportedly took their injured cows to a market in Mayo-Belwa in the neighbouring Adamawa State.
‘’We want military authorities and sister security agencies to investigate the alleged involvement of the military in the attacks,” a community leader told PREMIUM TIMES.
The police also acknowledged the incident occurred, but said it was not reported to security agencies.
‘’No one came to us and forwarded his or her complaint on the matter but the state command had since deployed more police to area while the divisional police officer in charge of the area” had been directed to investigate and forward findings to the headquarters.
The Nigerian Army did not return requests for comments about the attacks and claims that perpetrators dressed as soldiers.