LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — At least 5,000 people have fled villages in central Nigeria at the heart of clashes between nomadic cattle herders and farmers, officials said today, as at least five people have died in the fighting.

Authorities acknowledged there could be many more deaths in the violence hitting rural Benue and Nasarawa states in Nigeria’s fertile central belt, a dividing line in the country between religious and ethnic groups.

However, the remote villages remain difficult to reach and government officials appear hesitant to publicize details of the attacks at risk of inflaming a region where such clashes remain common.

The fighting began this week as Muslim Fulani cattle herders found some of their livestock dead, said Conrad Wergba, Benue state’s information commissioner.

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