April 24 (UPI) -- At least 16 people were killed in an attack allegedly carried out by cattle herders Tuesday on a Catholic church in Nigeria, local officials said.
Gunmen opened fire and killed at least 14 parishioners and two priests in the Mbalom area of Benue state -- part of the so-called Middle Belt region, which played a pivotal part in Nigeria's elections.
The area also is a hotbed for violent clashes between mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and mostly Christian farmers.
President Muhammadu Buhari, whose All Progressives Congress won the 2015 general elections thanks to support from the region, said the attack was "clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting."
The Benue Valley Professional Network called for an end to the clashes which have resulted in the deaths of dozens of people this year.
"We call on all humane persons and groups around the world to come to the aid of our farming and worship communities and end these terror attacks across Nigeria and especially in Benue, our food basket, which also threatens our collective food security," the group said.