* Six killed in attack blamed on herdsmen
* Clashes in the region killed hundreds earlier in year
By Shuaibu Mohammed
JOS, Nigeria, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Attackers armed with machetes killed six people in a village in central Nigeria on Tuesday in a raid reminiscent of ethnic clashes in which hundreds died earlier this year, a military spokesman said.
Herdsmen thought to be from the mostly Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic group raided the small Christian village of Rawhinku, some 10 km (6 miles) east of the city of Jos, in the early hours of the morning, residents said.
“Six people were killed in similar murders to those in Dogo Nahawa. Three others sustained various degrees of injuries,” said Kingsley Umoh, spokesman for a special military and police taskforce in the region.
Dogo Nahawa, just south of Jos, was one of the villages that bore the heaviest casualties during clashes between Muslim herders and mostly Christian villagers in January and March. [ID:nLDE6260AW]
President Goodluck Jonathan — who was then the country’s acting leader — deployed hundreds of soldiers and police to quell the clashes between mobs armed with guns, machetes and knives, but periodic attacks have continued.
Thousands of people have died over the past decade in religious and ethnic violence in the “Middle Belt” of Africa’s most populous nation, where the mostly-Muslim north meets the predominantly Christian south.
The tension is rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with migrants and settlers from the north.
Nigeria is a generally peaceful nation of more than 200 ethnic groups but regional rivalries and tribalism bubble under the surface. It can ill-afford instability as it prepares for presidential, parliamentary and local elections next year.
The presidential race is set to be the most fiercely contested since the end of military rule a decade ago, with the controversy focused on a ruling party “zoning agreement” which is supposed to ensure power rotates between north and south.
The aim of the unwritten agreement is to prevent the sort of rivalries that have fuelled the violence in the Middle Belt from becoming a factor in federal politics.
Jonathan's candidacy is controversial because he is from the south and his victory would disrupt zoning. He inherited the presidency in May after the death of northern President Umaru Yar'Adua part way through his first term, and Jonathan's opponents say only a northerner should run. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ ) (Writing by Nick Tattersall)