Gunmen from a shadowy cult have ambushed a group of police officers in central Nigeria, killing 23 of them and then setting fire to their bodies, the state's police chief has said.
The police said on Thursday that the attack was an ambush in Nassarawa state and the suspects belonged to an armed group called Ombatse.
"The Ombatse gunmen opened fire on our men, killing 23 and burning them," Nassarawa state police chief Abayomi Akeremale said, adding that 17 officers remain missing.
Nassarawa roughly falls on the dividing line between Nigeria's mostly Christian south and predominately Muslim north.
One of the state's major ethnic groups, the Eggon, is divided between the two faiths, but also has a history of links to pagan movements.
Ombatse, which means "time has come" in Eggon, has described itself as a movement committed to purging society of certain vices, including alcohol and adultery.
The police chief said the security forces had tried to arrest some Ombatse leaders following allegations of forced conversions in the village of Elakyo, not far from the state capital Lafia.
"We decided to send our men to the area to arrest members of Ombatse including their priest," he said.
"(They) have been going to churches and mosques initiating people into their cult by forcefully administering an allegiance oath to unwilling people."