Saturday, November 29, 2008
Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed during religious clashes in the central Nigerian town of Jos
A Muslim charity says it collected more than 300 bodies, and fatalities are also expected from other ethnic groups, mainly Christians. There is no official confirmation yet, and figures are notoriously unreliable in Nigeria. Clashes broke out after a disputed local election which has divided the town on social fault lines. Police have imposed a 24-hour curfew and the army is patrolling the streets of the town of Jos, capital of Plateau State. They have been given orders to shoot on sight in an effort to quell the bloodshed, some of the most serious in Nigeria in recent years. The Nigerian Red Cross says at least 10,000 people have fled their homes. The mostly Christian-backed governing party in Plateau state, the People's Democratic Party, was declared to have won the state elections. The result was contested by the opposition All Nigeria People's Party, which has support from Muslims. Violence started with singing and burning of tyres on the roads by groups of youths over reports of election rigging. Bodies from the Muslim Hausa community were brought into the mosque compound from the streets where they had been killed. The local imam said that their number is "in the hundreds". The Christian casualties are usually taken to the hospital morgues, but no clear figure has emerged for the number of their fatalities. Despite the overnight curfew, groups in some areas took to the streets again, as soon as patrols had passed by. In 2001, more than 1,000 people died in religious clashes in the city. Communal violence in Nigeria is complex, but it often boils down to competition for resources such as land between those that see themselves as indigenous versus the more recent settlers. In Plateau State, Christians are regarded as being indigenous and Hausa-speaking Muslims the settlers.