Nigerian army fights militiamen in central Nigeria

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, Nigeria  – Nigerian troops battled militiamen central Nigeria Sunday after they destroyed several and killed scores of people last week, including six soldiers who had their eyes gorged out and tongues cut , a military spokesman said.

The group is not part of Islamist militant group Boko , Special Task spokesman Ikedichi Iweha told Reuters, but he did not give details their .

“Tongues were cut , eyes were gorged out, bodies were decapitated,” Iweha said of the soldiers killed the April 28 attack that saw several the border of the central states of Plateau and Taraba razed the ground.

“Yesterday, contact made with the militia group and a firefight ensued. is still going on,” he said.

Iweha said he could not disclose what triggered the initial attack until the operation completed.

A resident of the area said the army had killed 20 people retaliation for the dead soldiers, who he said were murdered Saturday night. Those killed belonged the Tarok ethnic group, members of which had allegedly engaged cattle rustling.

“I saw people killed deliberately by the soldiers. Some ran the river but could not escape. They were caught by the bullets,” Usman Sabo told Reuters.

Iweha denied the army had attacked the villagers.

Clashes pitting the cattle-herding Fulani people against mostly settled farming communities like the Berom in Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt” are common.