Makurdi, Apr 25 (AFP) Eleven people have been killed in central Nigeria, the Benue state government said today, a day after at least 18 people died in an attack on a church that caused widespread outrage.

Rilwanu Adamu, an adviser to the Benue governor Samuel Ortom on Islamic affairs, said the attack happened in the state capital, Makurdi, and targeted ethnic Hausa traders.

"We lost 11 of our people.... We have five people also hospitalised in Makurdi," he said, warning that the death toll could yet rise. Two mosques were razed to the ground and traders' goods ransacked, said Adamu.

The latest deaths came in the wake of an attack on a church in the Mbalom community south of Makurdi on Tuesday, which left 16 worshippers and two Roman Catholic priests dead.

President Muhammadu Buhari described the attack, which locals blamed on nomadic herdsmen, as "evil and satanic" and said it was designed to whip up religious conflict.

Riots erupted in Makurdi following the deaths, forcing police to fire teargas to disperse the crowd.

Hundreds of people have been killed in tit-for-tat violence in Benue and other central states since the start of this year in an escalation of a decades-old dispute over land and water.

The attacks have been given an ethnic and religious dimension because the herdsmen are Fulani Muslims from northern Nigeria while the farmers are largely Christian.

Buhari has been criticised for failing to stop the violence because he is also a Fulani Muslim from the north. (AFP)

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