Residents flee Jos after clashes leave 450 people dead

AFP, JOS, Nigeria

Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 1

Frightened residents flooded a military checkpoint to flee the Nigerian city of Jos yesterday after Muslim-Christian clashes that killed some 450 people and left scores of buildings burnt.

While the fighting has subsided in the central city and troops have been deployed to end the unrest, fleeing residents said they remained too frightened to stay.

At a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Jos, where long lines of cars and buses carrying fleeing residents formed, soldiers searched all vehicles. Several vehicles were laden with baggage.

“The last few days have been very traumatizing for me and my two children,” Samira Yaya, 32, said as she was leaving Jos.

“My husband is out of the country on a business trip. We were indoors without food or water with killings and burnings all around us. I am going to Kano to stay with my family until my husband returns. I feel uneasy here,” she said.

Danladi Kabir, a 28-year-old trader, said as he crammed luggage into a taxi that he was leaving Jos for his Jigawa home state in Northern Nigeria.

“My family in Jigawa has been agitated over the fighting in Jos and my safety,” he said. “The best way to assure them I am alive is to visit home.”

At least 150 bodies were recovered from wells after the clashes, a village head said on Saturday, taking the unofficial death toll compiled from various sources to 464.

State officials have given no official death toll for the violence, which broke out on Jan. 17 in Jos and spread to nearby towns and villages.

Dozens of cars, houses, churches and mosques were also burnt during the four days of unrest. A curfew remained in effect between 5pm and 10am.

The head of Kuru Karama village, Umar Baza, said that 150 bodies were dug out from the wells and that 60 more people were still missing.

Kuru Karama is a Muslim enclave in a Christian region 30km south of Jos.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday that according to figures provided by Muslim leaders, at least 364 Muslims died in the clashes.

“As of yesterday [Friday], at least 364 Muslims have died in Jos, including those found in wells in Kuru Karama. This information was provided by Muslim officials in Jos,” HRW spokesman Eric Guttschuss said.