ABUJA (Agencies): Armed groups have killed at least 160 people in central Nigeria in a series of attacks on villages, local government officials said on Monday.

The toll marked a sharp rise from the initial figure reported by the army Sunday evening of just 16 dead in a region plagued for several years by religious and ethnic tensions.

“As many as 113 persons have been confirmed killed as Saturday hostilities persisted to early hours of Monday,” Monday Kassah, head of the local government in Bokkos, Plateau State, told AFP.

Military gangs, locally called “bandits”, launched “well-coordinated” attacks in “not fewer than 20 different communities” and torched houses, Kassah said.

“We found more than 300 wounded people” who were transferred to hospitals in Bokkos, Jos and Barkin Ladi, he said.

A provisional toll by the local Red Cross reported 104 deaths in 18 villages in the Bokkos region.

At least 50 people were also reported dead in several villages in the Barkin Ladi area, according to Dickson Chollom, a member of the state parliament.

He condemned the attacks and called on the security forces to act swiftly.

“We will not succumb to the tactics of these merchants of death. We are united in our pursuit of justice and lasting peace,” Chollom said.

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