Cattle herders storm local farming settlement in central Benue State, leaving at least 18 people dead, officials say.
Eighteen people, including two policemen, have been killed in intercommunal violence between nomadic herders and farmers in central Nigeria's Benue State, officials said.
"From the latest report I received, 18 people were killed in the attack, two policemen and 16 residents of the village," Paul Hemba, security adviser to Benue state governor said on Thursday.
"Security agencies were alerted and they deployed in the affected area which helped in stopping the attack, otherwise the casualties would have been higher," he added.
But Kertyo Tyounbur, chairman of the Ukum local government area of Benue, where the violence took place, gave a death toll of 23.
Violence broke out early on Wednesday when herders stormed Gbeji farming village in Ukum district, shooting indiscriminately,
Disputes between cattle herders and local farming settlements over land, grazing and water rights are common in central and northwestern regions of Africa's most populous nation.
Several other people were wounded in the attack and were taken to local hospitals.
Benue state police commissioner Wale Abbas said the attack was a reprisal for the killing of five ethnic Fulani herders by locals in the area.
"The crisis started on Tuesday when five Fulani herdsmen were attacked and killed in three separate incidents and their cows rustled," Abbas said.
He said he was preparing to summon a peace meeting between the herdsmen and the people in the area when he received reports that Gbeji had been attacked by herdsmen.
Abbas gave a lower death toll of 10, including a policeman, locals and herders.
"The dead policeman was hit by a stray bullet and died on the way to hospital," Abbas said.
Security personnel was searching for the herders and locals accused of involvement in the clashes, he said.
Tensions between communities sometimes take on ethnic and religious dimensions in Nigeria, which has dozens of ethnic groups and is almost equally split between the mostly Christian south and predominantly Muslim north.
Northwest and central Nigeria have also been hit hard by violence from criminal gangs called bandits by locals, who raid villages, killing and burning homes after looting them, and carry out mass kidnappings for ransom.