Tue, Mar 09, 2010 - Page 1 News List

More than 500 killed in Nigeria sectarian clashes

AFP , JOS, NIGERIA

The Nigerian government sent in troops to the flashpoint northern Jos region yesterday after attacks by machete-wielding gangs on Christian villages that officials said killed at least 500 people.

Under fire for failing to prevent another outburst of sectarian violence only weeks after hundreds died in Muslim-Christian clashes, authorities said they had arrested scores of people in connection with the attacks.

Newspapers reported that Muslim residents of the villages had been warned by phone text message, two days prior to the attack, so they could make good their escape.

Witnesses, meanwhile, described how the mainly women and children victims in Sunday’s three-hour systematic orgy of violence were caught in animal traps and fishing nets as they tried to flee their attackers, who hacked them to death.

The official death toll was initially put at more than 100, but Dan Manjang, an adviser to the Plateau state government, said it had shot up.

“We have been able to make 95 arrests but at the same time over 500 people have been killed in this heinous act,” Manjang said.

Government-run radio also reported that 500 people had been slaughtered in a raid on three villages on the fringes of Jos, the capital of Plateau state.

Witnesses and rights activists put the figure at between 200 and 250.

Much of the violence was centered around the village of Dogo Nahawa, where gangs from the mainly Muslim Fulani ethnic group set fire to straw-thatched mud huts before embarking on the killing rampage in the early hours of Sunday.

Frank Tatgun, a resident of Dogo Nahawa, said that he had seen two armored vehicles and three military trucks arrive in the village and scores of troops were now on patrol.

The explosion of violence is the latest between rival ethnic and religious groups. In January, 326 died in clashes in Jos, police said, although rights activists put the overall toll at more than 550.

A curfew that was imposed after January’s unrest is supposed to be still in place, but Christian leaders said the authorities had done nothing to prevent the bloodshed.

“Shortly after the militants besieged Dogo Nahawa … we contacted the soldiers at exactly 1:30am, but we were shocked to find out that the soldiers did not react until about 3:30am after the attackers had finished their job and left,” the Plateau State Christian Elders Consultative Forum said in a statement.

“The attack is yet another jihad and provocation,” it said.

Survivors said the attackers were able to separate the Fulanis from the Beroms by chanting nage, the Fulani word for cattle.

Those who failed to respond in the same language were hacked to death.

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