Nigeria's Plateau state: Army deadline to leave villages

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Nigeria's army has warned thousands of Plateau state residents to leave their homes as it begins an operation against those accused of a recent spate of deadly attacks.

Some 100 people were killed recently after attacks on villages inhabited by Christian ethnic groups.

Two senior politicians then died after gunmen opened fire at a funeral for some of the dead.

Thousands of people from Muslim communities are refusing to leave.

Plateau state straddles the dividing line between the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria and its largely Christian and animist south.

The militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, says it attacked the funeral last weekend at which Gyang Dantong, a senator with the ruling PDP, and state assembly leader Gyang Fulani died.

President Goodluck Jonathan has accused the group of trying to stir up violence between Christian and Muslim groups.

However, the army says the recent attacks were carried out by local members of the mainly Muslim Fulani community and it warned residents of several villages to leave their homes before the operation was due to start on Monday.

"We are telling [residents] to evacuate the areas to avoid being caught in a crossfire when the operation begins," army spokesman Captain Salihu Mustapha told the AFP news agency.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubaker in Nigeria says that the majority of the villages affected are inhabited by ethnic Fulanis but they are in an area where most people are from the largely Christian Berom community.

"They are saying they have no place to leave to. They are staying there," Mohammed Adamu Mohammed, from the Fulani lobby group Miyeti Allah, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Our reporter says thousands of Berom people have already fled the area following the recent violence.

The long-standing rivalry between the two communities stems from a dispute about who are the area's rightful inhabitants.

Thousands of people have been killed in years of attacks between the rival communities.

Analysts say tensions between different ethnic and religious groups are often whipped up by local politicians.

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