Nigeria death toll rises to 500 after four day of clashes

The death toll spiked from around 150 after mosque officials were able to retrieve bodies from communities just outside Jos.

Nigeria death toll rises to 500 after four day of clashes

Four days of clashes between Nigerian Christian, Muslim groups have killed 464 people in and around the capital of Plateau state, according to figures compiled by a mosque official and a rights group.

The death toll spiked from around 150 after mosque officials were able to retrieve bodies from communities just outside Jos.

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

A nearby mosque still smoldered, its minarets blackened by fires.

Witnesses said rioters armed with knives, homemade firearms and stones had attacked passers-by and fought with security forces, leaving bodies in the street and stacked in mosques.

Clashes between Christian and Muslim groups subsided on Wednesday in the Nigerian city of Jos and nearby communities.

"Curfew"

Hundreds of soldiers and police were stationed throughout Plateau state's capital city in central Nigeria to enforce a 24-hour curfew, which has left many streets deserted and businesses closed.

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, in his first use of executive power, ordered troops to Jos on Tuesday to restore calm and prevent a repetition of clashes in November 2008, when hundreds of residents were killed in the country's worst sectarian fighting in years.

"More troops have come in and the situation is now under control. But there are still many hoodlums dressed in fake police and military outfits causing havoc," said Gregory Yenlong, spokesman for the Plateau state government.

Armoured vehicles and soldiers patrolled the city, while residents ventured outside with their arms held up to signal they were unarmed.

"Restraint"

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Nigerian security forces to use restraint. The group called on Nigeria's government to prosecute those responsible for the killings.

"Nigeria should ensure that its security forces use restraint and comply with international standards on the use of force in responding to the latest deadly outbreak of inter-communal violence," said HRW.

"This is not the first outbreak of deadly violence in Jos, but the government has shockingly failed to hold anyone accountable," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"Rising death toll"

"We found more than 200 bodies gathered at the mosque in Kuru Gada Biu and 22 more at Mai Adiko," said Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials, who had earlier estimated the death toll among Muslims at 177.

Earlier, HRW said 151 bodies had been taken to the city's mosque for burial since the violence started on Sunday, while the number of Christian dead was put at 65.

"The fighting has stopped in Jos, but we can hear gunshots in other communities in the outskirts of the city. We are expecting more corpses to be brought in from surrounding communities later today," Shittu had said.

Police put the official figures at 35 people dead, 40 injured and 168 arrested since Sunday.

The break in violence allowed mosque officials to retrieve dead bodies in the outskirts of the city, with 22 found in one nearby community, Shittu had said.

The city's main hospital, Jos University Teaching Hospital, was forced to turn away some patients late Tuesday because doctors were too overwhelmed. "Ninety percent of the casualties were from gunshot injuries with a few from knives and bows and arrows," said Dr. Dabit Joseph, who works at Jos University Teaching Hospital.

HRW said more than 13,500 people have died in religious or ethnic clashes since the end of military rule in 1999 in the west African country.

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.


Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2010, 17:01
Add Comment