Fulani herdsmen Nigeria
Fulani herdsmen are often accused of carrying out attacks in states across Nigeria's middle beltgetty images

Militants from the Fula ethnic group are believed to have killed at least 1,229 people in Nigeria in 2014, according to the latest Global Terrorism Index (GTI), which ranked the African nation as the world's third most terrorised country.

The Fulani militants, together with terror group Boko Haram, were responsible for more than 7,000 deaths that occurred in Nigeria in 2014. While Boko Haram is predominant in the news related to terrorism in Nigeria, little is know about attacks and abductions by the Fulani herdsmen.

People from the 20 million-strong Fula, or Fulani, ethnic group are present in several African countries, including Nigeria, Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon, Mali and Egypt. The Fulani are mainly herdsmen and constitute the world's largest nomadic group.

Fulani people are predominantly Muslim and their society is structured in different casts, which may vary from country to country.They speak Fula language as well as Hausa, English, French and Arabic. Fulani militants are believed to carry out attacks mainly in Nigeria and CAR.

Fulani's history in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the Fulani are about seven million and live in the country's middle belt. Since the Fulani Jihad war - fought in present-day Nigeria and Cameroon between 1804 and 1808 - the ethnic group has been often associated with the Hausa people, given the common history shared by both ethnicities. However, many Fulani oppose to the use of "Hausa-Fulani".

The war started when well-known Islamic scholar Usman dan Fodio was exiled by the then king Yunfa from the Gobir city-state, founded by the Hausa. In response, Fodio assembled an army aimed at taking control of territories. The war resulted in the killing of Yunfa and the creation of the Sokoto Empire, abolished in 1903 during the British colonisation. However the position of Sultan has been retained to present day and the titular head still holds considerable influence among the Muslim population.

The empire included several states and cities of modern-day central and northern Nigeria such as Gombe, Adamawa and Abuja.

Reasons behind Fulani militants' attacks

Militants from the Fulani ethnic group mainly operate in Nigeria's middle belt and they attack primarily private citizens. Their fight aims to guarantee control of grazing lands.

In March and June 2014, Fulani militants were accused of having carried out coordinated attacks in several villages across Kaduna state. Both attacks resulted in the death of more than 100 people respectively. In April, the Fulani community was blamed for attacking community leaders and vigilante groups in Galadima village, Zamfara state, The attack resulted in the deaths of at least 79 people.

In September, the abduciton of secretary to the federal government in Ondo State, Chief Olu Falae, was attribuited to the Fulani herdsmen. The man was released on 24 September after a ransom of 100 million Naira (£330,000, $500,000) was paid to the kidnappers.

GTI warned attacks attributed to the Fulani ethnic group are on the rise in Nigeria and the Fulani militants "now pose a serious threat to stability". The report added: "There has been an ongoing conflict over access and control of land between the semi-nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers in north-eastern Nigeria.

"There have been reports of a link between Boko Haram and Fulani militants, particularly in regards to smuggling and organised crime. However, unlike Boko Haram who are now affiliated with ISIL [Islamic State, Isis] and align with the establishment of a caliphate, the Fulani militants have very localised goals, mainly greater access to grazing lands for livestock."

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Herdsmen Kill over 100 in Attacks on Nigerian VillagesIBTimes UK