Abuja, Jan 1: At least 52 people, including women and children, have been killed in clashes between two rival ethnic communities in southeastern Ebonyi state of Nigeria, as President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in parts of the country hit by a violent Islamist insurgency.
A spokesman for Ebonyi state government said the clashes erupted between the Ezza and Ezillo people of Ishielu district, the two groups that are often in conflict, yesterday.
Local media said that 52 people, including women and children, were killed in the resurgence of the Ezza/Ezillo inter-communal strife in Ebonyi that had reared its head in 2008 and was contained in 2010.
It said a divisional police officer, children and women were among those killed.
Governor Martin Elechi visited the region along with state Commissioner of Police Adeniji Adeleke.
The Governor urged the villagers to remain calm, promising that the government would use every means to trace the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
In another development, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in regions bedevilled by attacks carried out by radical Muslim sect Boko Haram and ordered all land and sea borders closed in most of the affected areas.
During a nationwide broadcast, he declared a state of emergency in parts of Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Niger states.
He said the chief of defence staff and the Inspector General of Police force would take necessary actions concerning the affected areas and announced setting up of a counter-terror group within the armed forces to handle the issues of terrorism.
“As part of the overall strategy to overcome the current security challenges, I have directed the closure of the land borders contiguous to the affected Local Government Areas so as to control incidences of cross-boarder terrorist activities as terrorists have taken advantage of the present situation to strike at targets in Nigeria and retreat beyond the reach of our law enforcement personnel,” the President said.
Before announcing the state of emergency, Jonathan had paid a visit to Madalla town, close to the federal capital Abuja, where the Christmas Day church bombings had killed at least 44 people.
The total number of deaths resulting from simultaneous attacks on other northern cities on the Christmas day has been put at 49.
Jonathan had described the Boko Haram sect as “cancerous” and asserted that any attack on any part of the nation was “an attack on all of us”.
Boko Haram sect has been waging a bloody conflict to install an Islamic government and Sharia rule in the country.
A suicide bomb attack by the group at the United Nations headquarters in Abuja in July last year had killed 26 persons.
Nigeria, with a population of 150 million, has both Muslim and Christian communities. Muslims are predominant in the north while Christians mostly live in the South.