Suspected herdsmen killed at least 16 people, including two priests, in a dawn attack Tuesday on a Catholic church in Benue state, local police confirmed.
Police chief Owoseni Fatai told reporters that some 30 assailants opened fire on worshippers at the St. Ignatius Quasi church during morning mass around 6:00 a.m. (0500 GMT).
"They attacked the venue of a burial ceremony and also...the church where the two reverend fathers were holding mass," Fatai said, reports Xinhua.
The Catholic diocese of Makurdi confirmed the death of priests Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha in a statement condemning the violence.
Fatai said preliminary investigation indicated that the herdsmen had stayed around the area for some time before carrying out the attacks.
There have been clashes between herdsmen, who are mostly Muslims from the Fulani ethnic group, and members of the settled farming communities, who are mainly Christian.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings. "Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting," he said in a statement.
The toll brings the number of people killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen to 45 since Governor Samuel Ortom proceeded on his annual leave on April 12.
Last week, killings took place in Logo, Guma, Makurdi and Naka areas of the state, also by suspected Fulani militia.
Benue is located in Nigeria's so-called Middle Belt which separates the predominantly Muslim north from the largely Christian south.
The area has long been a hotbed of ethnic, sectarian and religious conflicts, a lot of it over land.