Spokesman Remis Dandjinou in a statement read on national television on Friday said the new toll remains provisional while the fighting is under investigation. He called the attempt to divide the country’s people “despicable.”
Authorities in the West African nation have said the clashes began on Dec. 31 when the Yirgou village chief and seven other people were killed by suspected extremists in the north central region. Reprisal attacks followed against local ethnic Fulani Muslims in several villages.
The violence echoes that in neighboring Mali, where communities have attacked Fulani suspected of supporting or being recruited by extremist groups.
Extremism is growing in West Africa’s Sahel, to alarm.