Nigeria's military kills dozens in communal violence

The husk of a vehicle aftermath of Nigerian Air Force bombing of an Adamawa village

The husk of a vehicle aftermath of Nigerian Air Force bombing of an Adamawa village

Nigeria's air force killed at least 35 people in attacks on villages in the northeastern state of Adamawa in December, Amnesty International said in a report on Tuesday.

"Launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone's standard", Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said in the statement.

He said "In some cases where the Nigerian security agencies did respond to communal violence, they used excessive or unlawful force resulting in even more deaths and destruction".

The report is the latest challenge to the military on human rights and the attacks suggest a deadly crisis between herders and farmers is spiraling out of government control.

Reports of abuses and military excesses rarely result in Nigeria's military meting out public discipline to officers.

Nigerian Air Force spokesman Olatokunbo Adesanya said the aircraft opened fire after attackers shot at them.

Adesanya said that "hundreds of people, mostly dressed in black attires, and who appeared armed, were sighted ransacking and setting a village on fire", reflecting the official stance that Boko Haram jihadists had infiltrated the ranks of the herders.

On December 4, air force fighter jets fired rockets at villages to deter communal clashes as a cycle of violence and revenge attacks gripped Adamawa state, Amnesty said. This month at least 168 people have died across five states in such clashes, said Amnesty.

While the tit-for-tat violence between predominantly Muslim herders and mainly Christian farmers has marred the region for generations, some analysts say it's worsening because of the proliferation of weapons and the southward advance of the Sahara desert that's intensifying competition for land and water. "Houses started burning. Children started running for their lives", an unnamed farmer from the village of Shafaron told Amnesty.

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