HRW calls for probe on massacre of Muslims in Nigeria / PHOTO

HRW urged Nigeria to order "an immediate criminal investigation into credible reports of a massacre of at least 150 Muslim residents.

HRW calls for probe on massacre of Muslims in Nigeria / PHOTO

Mosque and government officials have pulled more bodies from wells and sewage pits in a village near the Nigerian city of Jos, victims of what Human Rights Watch said on Saturday appeared to have been a targeted massacre.

Four days of clashes between Christians and Muslims killed hundreds of people in Jos and surrounding communities this week before Vice President Goodluck Jonathan deployed the military to contain the violence.

The unrest erupted last Sunday over plans to build a mosque in a mainly Christian district of the city, residents said.

Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials in Jos, told Reuters on Saturday he had just returned from Kuru Jantar, a village also known as Kuru Karama or Kuru Gada Biu, where more than 200 bodies had been found.

"So many bodies were dumped into wells and were littered around, others were being evacuated by the federal authorities," he said. Both Shittu and Red Cross officials said they were still counting bodies and could not yet give an overall toll.

The state government has given no official death toll for the violence.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said groups of armed men attacked the mostly Muslim population of Kuru Karama on Jan. 19, burning some alive and killing others as they tried to flee.

HRW urged Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to order "an immediate criminal investigation into credible reports of a massacre of at least 150 Muslim residents of a town in central Nigeria".

"They were armed with cutlasses, guns, sticks and bags of stone. It was not the Christians from our community but those from outside who came," one 32-year-old resident of Kuru Karama, who was not named, told Human Rights Watch.

"The children were running helter-skelter. The men were trying to protect the women. People who ran into the bush were killed. Some were burned in the mosque and some went to the houses and were burned," he said.

He said he had seen the bodies of 20-30 children, some burned, some sliced with machetes, and that his wife was in hospital with an 11-month-old girl who had been cut with an axe.

"I came back on Wednesday evening escorted by the military. I saw dead bodies everywhere. The corpses were there, but now you can just see the blood on the ground. None of the houses are standing," he said.

The authorities relaxed a 24-hour curfew in Jos on Thursday to allow thousands of residents to return to their homes. The strong presence of troops and police has helped restore calm.

The Red Cross has estimated 17,000 people were displaced and took shelter in colleges, hospitals and schools. A Red Cross official in neighbouring Bauchi state said on Saturday around 7,000 people were still sheltering in schools there and were being given food and medical supplies.

Jos, situated between the Muslim-dominated north and the Christian south, has been the centre of several major religious clashes in Africa's most populous nation, whose 150 million people are divided almost equally between followers of the two 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.


Related news reports:

Nigeria death toll rises to 500 after four day of clashes

Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2010, 18:39
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