Abuja – An attack by gunmen on villages in northwest Nigeria last week claimed "over 130" lives, more than double the toll initially reported, the governor of Kaduna state said on Tuesday.
"The last report we got is that over 130 people were killed, not even 66," governor Nasir El-Rufai said after a meeting of military and security chiefs in Abuja.
El-Rufai, who was invited to speak at the briefing with President Muhammadu Buhari, was criticised for announcing the deaths last Friday, on the eve of elections which were subsequently delayed.
The bodies were found in eight villages in the Kajuru area of the state, which has long been a centre of deadly unrest, fuelled by ethnic and religious tensions.
A representative of the ethnic Christian Adara community, which is dominant in the area, told AFP there had been recurring attacks by Fulani Muslims in the last three years.
At the weekend, the governor said the victims were Fulanis. But a prominent Christian body has said the attack did not happen.
It is unusual for state governors to make such announcements in Nigeria and El-Rufai hit out at claims that the attack was fabricated as "irresponsible".
"I know there is a prevailing narrative in the Nigerian media that only certain lives are more important than others," he told reporters.
"We see that clearly in the slant of reporting and the denial," he said.
"Fulani leaders are providing the names of all these people, we have the list and we will release it to the press."
Nigerian media reported that Kaduna state police chief, Ahmad Abdulrahman, also attended the meeting and said 11 people had been arrested.
El-Rufai, from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is known as a close ally of Buhari. He is seeking re-election as governor in upcoming polls on March 9.
Buhari, who also wants a second term of office in presidential polls postponed to this Saturday, is facing a number of security challenges across the country.
They include Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the northeast and an upsurge in violence between farmers and herders in central states.
Kaduna is one of several northwest states to have been hit by kidnappings for ransom and cattle rustling by criminal gangs.