African News

Nearly 150 dead in clashes in Nigerian city

Nearly 150 Nigerians have been killed and dozens injured in three days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs in the central city of Jos, where police imposed a 24-hour curfew. The governor of Plateau state on Tuesday sent extra security forces to the state capital to prevent a repetition of clashes in November 2008, when hundreds of residents were killed in the country’s worst sectarian fighting in years. “On Sunday evening we buried 19 corpses, and 52 yesterday. As of right now, there are 78 at the mosque yet to be buried,” said Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a worker organising mass burials at the city’s main mosque, adding 90 people had been injured. This week’s violence erupted after an argument between Muslim and Christian neighbours over the rebuilding of homes destroyed in the 2008 clashes. The clashes are unlikely to have a major impact on sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy. Its oil industry is in the south and its banking sector mainly in the commercial hub Lagos. A police spokesman said calm had been restored in most neighbourhoods in Jos, but residents said they could still hear sporadic gunfire and see smoke from burning houses and churches.
Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, who has taken over ceremonial duties from ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, has ordered military troops and the government’s top security chiefs to Jos to restore calm. “I assure you that the federal government is on top of the situation in Jos and the situation is under control,” said Ima Niboro, spokesman for the vice-president. It was not known whether Yar’Adua, who has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia for nearly two months, had been briefed on the situation. The state’s governor, Jonah Jang, was expected to address Nigerians in a live TV broadcast later on Tuesday.
A Red Cross spokesman said around 2,000 residents had left their homes and taken shelter at a nearby college. Some were injured with machete and gunshot wounds, he said. There were reports that the clashes had spread to at least seven communities outside Jos, but this could not be independently confirmed. Dr Aboi Madaki, who works at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, said gunshots and machinegun fire could be heard as early as 4 a.m. (0300 GMT) and continued for hours afterwards. “I saw soldiers moving into town and I can see smoke coming from many places,” he said.
Nigeria has roughly equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, although traditional animist beliefs underpin many people’s faiths.
More than 200 ethnic groups generally live peacefully side-by-side in the West African country, although 1 million people were killed in a civil war between 1967 and 1970 and there have been outbreaks of religious unrest since then. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch released a report in July saying around 700 people were killed in the November 2008 clashes, more than three times as many as the official figure given by the government shortly after the violence. Source: Reuters

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