Armed herdsmen have killed two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers during an attack on a parish in Nigeria. Picture: Reuters/Sergio Flores

Johannesburg - Armed herdsmen have killed two Catholic priests and 17 other worshippers during an attack on St. Ignatius Quasi Parish in the Ayar-Mbalom community of Gwer East Local Government Area of Nigeria's Benue State. 

Punch Nigeria reported that during Tuesday's morning's violence the attackers also burnt down over 100 houses. Most of the victims were attacked while returning from morning mass.

The attack came barely four days after the murder of ten people by herdsmen in Guma Local Government Area and the destruction of several  houses by men suspected to be military personnel in Naka, Gwer West Local Government Area of the state.

Nigeria has been plagued by ongoing violent land disputes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers, leaving hundreds dead and many more injured.

The escalation of pastoral conflicts in recent years has been triggered by the effects of climate change in Nigeria’s north, with lower rainfall and increased desertification of grazing land forcing herdsmen to look farther south to farmlands in a region often described as Nigeria’s food basket. 

Farmers who are keen to protect their means of livelihood and their crops from being damaged by thousands of cattle have often clashed with the herdsmen.

African News Agency/ANA