By Ardo Hazzad
BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Dozens of cattle herders and bystanders were killed and several injured by a suspected bomb blast in Nigeria's north central region, a state government official and spokesperson of the national cattle breeders said on Wednesday.
The incident happened on Tuesday night between Nasarawa and Benue states in north central Nigeria.
The spokesperson of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Tasi'u Suleman, said a group of Fulani herders were moving their cattle to Nasarawa from Benue, where authorities had confiscated the animals for breaching anti-grazing laws, when an explosion rocked the area.
"At least about 54 people died instantly. Those who were injured were countless," Suleman said.
Nasarawa governor Abdullahi Sule did not say how many people were killed, but told reporters that a bomb blast was responsible for the deaths.
He did not say who was believed to be behind the explosion, but said he had been meeting with security agencies "to ensure that we continue to douse the tension" that could be caused by the incident.
North central Nigeria, also known as the Middle Belt, is prone to violence due to clashes between Fulani pastoralists and farmers, who are mainly Christian, which is often painted as ethno-religious conflict.
But experts say population growth and climate change has led to an expansion of the area dedicated to farming, leaving less land available for open grazing by nomads' herds of cattle.
The governor's spokesperson Abubakar Ladan told Reuters that mass burial for those killed were held earlier on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Ardo Hazzad and Ahmed Kingimi; Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Daniel Wallis)