In this photograph taken with a cellphone on May 7, 2013, Bakura Ibrahim, a suspected Islamic extremist, is seen tied to a tree in Bama, Nigeria, after his arrest.

Abuja, Nigeria -

Twenty-eight policemen were killed in central Nigeria by an ethnic militia, an official said late on Wednesday.

The clash occurred on Tuesday in Lakwio, near the Lafia, the capital of Nasarawa State, said Alhaji Sani Mairiga, the state governor's spokesperson.

Members of the tribal group Ombatse, meaning “the time has come” in the Eggon language, reportedly ambushed the police as they approached the village, Police Commissioner Abayomi Akinrimale was quoted as saying by local media.

“The governor had earlier outlawed the sect in the state,” Mairiga said. “With what happened now, the full weight of the law will be applied on anybody found culpable.”

One resident said he was thinking of leaving the small town.

“With the large scale of police killing, something will give,” he said, speaking anonymously out of security concerns.

“We are not safe in this town any more.”

The police were reportedly attacked during an operation to arrest an Ombatse religious leader. - Sapa-dpa