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“During the night of 23-24 March, the situation became very aggravated and at this stage we have 17 people dead,” defence ministry official Vincent Toh Bi said on state television.
A further 39 people were injured in the fighting, including five members of the security forces who intervened, he added.
Around 900 defence and security personnel were deployed in the town to restore order.
“This is a provisional toll. This is a crisis. We’ll have to wait several more hours, or even several days, to have a definitive toll,” said Toh Bi.
Violent disputes between nomadic herders and farmers, often over grazing and watering rights, are not uncommon, but such a high death toll is rare
The farmers complain that their fields are ruined by the passage of herds of cattle.
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