Supporters of Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar run after being chased by local security during an election campaign rally at the Ribadu Square in Yola, Nigeria. Authorities in Kaduna state are reporting at least 66 deaths in a wave of violence just before the country's presidential election. File photo: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba.

LAGOS — Authorities in Nigeria's Kaduna state are reporting at least 66 deaths in a wave of violence just before the country's presidential election.

Samuel Aruwan, a spokesman for Kaduna state's governor, said Friday that the victims include 22 children.

He blamed a "criminal element" for the deaths, which have taken place this week, in the Kajuru local government area.

One resident blamed the killings on fighting between Christian farmers and Fulani Muslim herdsmen.

Deadly clashes between the two communities have erupted in recent years in southern Kaduna as the groups compete for land and water.

Nigerian voters are headed to the polls on Saturday amid concerns about violence in many parts of the country.

Associated Press