Nigeria says killing of Muslim travellers was 'prearranged'

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had condemned Saturday's ambush. PHOTO: REUTERS

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (REUTERS) - The killing of 23 people returning from a Muslim festival in Nigeria was a premeditated ambush for which suspects have already been arrested, the authorities said on Sunday (Aug 15).

Deadly violence is common around Africa's most populous nation, with roads becoming particularly dangerous as armed attackers and kidnappers target travellers.

In a statement, President Muhammadu Buhari condemned Saturday's ambush in central Plateau state of buses returning from a religious festival in nearby Bauchi state.

Though details of the attack in state capital Jos were unclear, some media suggested a Christian militia was to blame.

"It is clear this was a well-conceived and prearranged assault on a known target, location and religious persuasion of the travellers, not an opportunist ambush," Mr Buhari said.

"A direct, brazen and wickedly motivated attack on members of a community exercising their rights to travel freely and to follow the faith of their choosing."

Plateau state governor Simon Lalong said security agencies had arrested 20 suspects and imposed a 6am-to-6pm curfew in the area due to fear of reprisals.

"This is purely a criminal conduct and should not be given any ethnic or religious colouration," he said.

Nigeria has been plagued by violence in recent years. Conflicts between farmers and cattle herders have killed thousands, while a 12-year war against Islamist militants has led to an estimated 350,000 deaths.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.