(AP Photo)

At least 35 people have been killed by Nigeria’s military in air raids as the country tries to combat growing violence between farmers and herdsmen, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

But Amnesty said that Nigeria’s military response to the communal violence, which has killed at least 168 people since the beginning of the year and displaced thousands more, was not curbing the fighting but only threatening the communities it was trying to protect.

 “Launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone’s standard. Such reckless use of deadly force is unlawful, outrageous and lays bare the Nigerian military’s shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect,” said Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director Osai Ojigho.

“The government must overturn its response to these deadly clashes to avoid this crisis getting out of control.”

During the air raids eight villages were heavily damaged or destroyed.

Amnesty said that rockets were fired in warning late last year by the Nigerian air force but only served to hurt people attempting to flee attacks by hundreds of herdsmen on at least five villages in Adamawa state.

Additionally unlawful killings were being carried out by soldiers using excessive force, said the rights group.

- African News Agency (ANA)