Officials in Nigeria say the death toll from an attack on animal herders has risen to 40. The attack took place on Wednesday in Rukubi, a town on the border between Nigeria’s Nassarawa and Benue states, a region known for ethnic conflict. and religious.

Nassarawa state governor Abdullahi Sule has refuted claims that a military jet bombed the herdsmen, saying on Thursday it was an unidentified drone operated from an unknown location that exploded.

He said he has deployed security agents in the area to avoid tensions or reprisals.

“I’ve been on it all night trying to resolve the matter with the defense chief of staff, Miyetti Allah, and all security agencies, including our police commissioner, to make sure we continue to defuse the tension that may result. from this”. Sue said.

The herders were returning from nearby Benue state with hundreds of cattle they had rescued from officials enforcing a law against open grazing when the bomb exploded among them.

Sule said 40 people were killed and many others injured. Many herds were also affected.

A Nigerian Air Force spokesman did not receive calls from VOA for comment. However, Nassarawa State Police spokesman Nansel Ramham told VOA by phone that authorities are investigating.

Farmers and herders in central Nigeria have been fighting over grazing land for decades. Benue and Nassarawa are the most affected.

An umbrella group for cattle breeders in Nigeria, the Nigerian Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, condemned the attack on Thursday and called on authorities to apprehend the perpetrators.

Kabiru Adamu, an analyst at Abuja-based Beacon Security, said the attacks could be the result of incorrect profiling.

“No one to date, neither the army, nor the state governor, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, has been able to clarify what kind of arson attack it was. The media has created this monster called Fulani herdsmen. It has been highlighted by the media. media to the extent that stigmatization and profiling has occurred,” Adamu said.

But the Nigerian military has in the past recorded accidental airstrikes against civilians as it battled Islamist militants and armed gangs in the northern region.

In January 2017, more than 100 people were killed when a military plane struck a camp housing people displaced by jihadist violence in the town of Rann, in the northeastern state of Borno.

The army blamed the attack on a lack of proper signage in the area.

Last year, the arms trade between the United States and the Nigerian government stalled due to concerns about extrajudicial killings.

Adamu said the authorities should be more proactive.

“By now, I hope the National Assembly has set up a committee to look into this latest incident in Doma, identify what went wrong and introduce measures to prevent it from happening again,” Adamu said. “It could have been mistaken identity or poor intelligence that could have suggested that the move was made by bandits.”

Security is a significant challenge and a major issue as Nigeria prepares for next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections.