Abuja: Nigerian Army has launched a major military operation against militants in a central mountainous region, days after a series of vicious attacks on Christian villages left over 100 people dead.
The operation is aimed at flushing out militants occupying a mountain in the Plateau State, from where they descended down on the villages and attacked residents.
The north central Plateau state has been a hotbed of violence between Fulani herdsmen, who are mostly Muslims, and Birom ethnic group, who are mostly Christians.
The recent attacks, in which a federal senator and a state legislator were also killed, were earlier attributed to the Fulani herdsmen.
But terror group Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for the killings.
Before the operation, the army asked make-shift villages located within the area, occupied by itinerant Fulani herdsmen, to relocate in order for them to focus on the infiltrators.
Villagers said the peculiar thing about the recent raid was that the attackers descended from the mountains which surround the area.
"Villagers were told to leave so that they do not become casualty in the event of the inevitable crossfire between the militants and the army," military spokesman Captain Salihu Mustapha said.
The army did not say how long the operation would last but analysts believe it could lead to the establishment of a permanent strong military presence within the conflict zone.
Most often, incidents of violence in Plateau are not related to bombings and shootings carried out by the radical Islamic sect, but are communal fights for land control in the oil-rich African country's central region.
More than 2,000 have died in ethnic and religious clashes within the state since last 2010.
First Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 22:09