A U.N. official said she had "never seen this level of destruction" after touring the remains of a Nigerian district where hundreds of people were allegedly slaughtered by Fulani herders.
The massacre happened on March 5, when Fulani herdsmen invaded villages in Nigeria's Agatu district, the latest attack in a violent conflict that's been brewing since 2013, according to the English-language Nigerian news site Naij.com.
The alleged perpetrators, known as the Fulani or Fula people, are a nomadic Muslim tribal group with a history dating back hundreds of years. Urban sprawl, and countryside that's been converted to farming land over the past few decades, have put them at odds with mostly Christian farmers when the Fula come through with their herds, looking to graze. The Fulani are considered terrorists by some organizations.
The destruction the Fula left in their wake was unprecedented, said Angele Dikongue Atangana, a representative for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States. Reports state between 300 and 500 people were killed.
"In my 20 years of working as a humanitarian, I have never seen such a level of destruction," Atangana said, reports AllAfrica. "If steps are not taken, the crises can affect the country as a whole."
The attack targeted 10 villages in the Agatu district, according to reports, with Fula herdsmen allegedly killing women, children, local clergy and other non-combatants.
In the meantime, the survivors face a humanitarian crisis, according to Atangana, who said they won't be able to rebuild or survive without significant help from the government and charitable organizations. Nigeria's State Emergency Management Agency was collecting essential items to help the displaced survivors, whose homes were razed or burned down in the attacks.
Groups like Christian Solidarity Worldwide have become involved, urging the Nigerian government to step in and offer protection to the victims.
“Addressing this violence must become a priority, with attacks being met by an effective defense of besieged communities, as well as of herders who are legitimate victims of cattle rustling," said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. "Murder, rape, and destruction of personal and federal property are criminal acts; consequently, perpetrators ought to be apprehended, disarmed and prosecuted in order to combat lawlessness and impunity."