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Deaths from latest Nigerian inter-communal clashes pass 100

BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) - The death toll from fighting between farmers and herders in Nigeria's north-central state of Plateau has risen beyond 100, with locals searching in the bush for more bodies, residents and local authorities said on Friday.

Gunmen stormed villages and burned several houses in the Mangu local government area on Tuesday, with at least 20 people initially estimated to have died, mostly women and children.

The violence was in reprisal for farmers killing a herder and his cattle who encroached on their land last month, according to a local Fulani herder Bello Yahaya.

Mangu local government chairman Minista Daniel Daput said a mass burial had been conducted for around 50 people. Residents said another 50 were to be buried on Friday, while they were looking for more missing people in the surrounding bush.

Plateau is one of several ethnically and religiously diverse hinterland states known as Nigeria's Middle Belt, where inter-communal conflict has claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.

The violence is often painted as ethno-religious conflict between Muslim herders and mainly Christian farmers. But climate change and expanding agriculture are also major factors.

Makut Simon Macham, a spokesperson for the Plateau state governor, said authorities were assessing the situation and would prosecute suspects, but could not give casualty numbers.

(Reporting by Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi and Ahmed Kingimi in Maiduguri; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Bhargav Acharya and Andrew Cawthorne)