African News

Nigeria ordered to investigate massacre

Nigeria has been asked to undertake criminal investigations into what the watchdog, Human Rights Watch, termed as “credible reports of massacre” of at least 150 Muslim residents of a town in central Nigeria. Human Right Watchs statement, urging the Nigerian vice president to order the investigations, was released yesterday, January 23 2010, just over a week after reports of interreligious violence erupted in the region. “Something extremely serious has happened in the town,” Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch in Dakar, said. “The authorities need to act now both to bring those behind these heinous crimes to justice and to protect both the survivors and those at risk of renewed violence.” According to Human Rights Watch, witnesses interviewed by the body recalled groups of men armed with knives, machetes, and guns as having attacked the mainly Muslim populated Kuru Karama town, 30 kilometers south of the city of Jos in Plateau State in central Nigeria. They said the incidence occurred at around 10 a.m on January 19, 2010, when the assailants surrounded the town, hunted down and attacked residents, some of whom had sought refuge in homes and a local mosque, killing many as they tried to flee and burning many others alive. The witnesses, according to Human Watch, said they believed members of the armed groups to be Christians. “Community leaders from Jos and journalists who visited the town under military escort later in the week told Human Rights Watch that they saw bodies, including several charred corpses of young children and babies, strewn around town, including dozens stuffed down wells or in sewage pits”, a report on the website of Human Rights Watch read. A Muslim official who reportedly visited the scene of the violence counted 121 bodies recovered during the time of writing the report, and that included bodies of 22 young children. The official further told Human Rights Watch that corpses were still lodged in 16 wells. Eyewitness accounts also revealed that nearly all of the homes and the three main mosques were burned and destroyed. One of the town’s Muslim imams wounded in the attack told Human Rights Watch that a Christian pastor tried to stop the attack but was beaten by the armed mob. There are conflicting reports of the police response. But according to Human Right Watch, a witness reported that at least one police officer participated in the attack, while another said the police abandoned their post shortly before the violence broke out, refusing to intervene to stop it despite repeated appeals. However, Plateau State police commissioner, Greg Anyating, is reported to have denied reports of death tolls in the violence, promising that the police would issue “correct figures” on the number of dead in a few days, following an inquiry. Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, sitting in with the absence of bedridden sick president Umaru Musa Yaradua, has reportedly vowed that the perpetrators of the violence and their sponsors would not evade justice. “The federal government is determined to secure convictions of the perpetrators of this crime, no matter how highly placed,” he was quoted as saying. “Vice President Jonathan’s statement that the perpetrators will be prosecuted is a start. But now he needs to make sure the police conduct an immediate and impartial investigation,” the Human Rights Watch website quoted Dufka. There has been conflicting reports as to what sparked the latest round of violence which reportedly started on January 17, in a country well known for religious intolerance amongst it citizens.While Muslim leaders have counted at least 364 of their people dead, a Christian leader reportedly told Human Rights Watch the Christian Association of Nigeria was still compiling figures on the number of Christians killed. The full report can be read

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