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Sunday, 9 September, 2001, 19:11 GMT 20:11 UK
Dozens killed in Nigeria violence
A woman walks past a burning lorry following the violence in Jos
Reporters saw wounded people lying unattended in the streets
Troops are patrolling the streets of the central Nigerian city of Jos after clashes between Christians and Muslims left at least 50 people dead and caused thousands to flee.

It was some of the worst religious violence seen since last year's riots in the northern city of Kaduna in which hundreds died.

It looks as if early intervention by the army has averted an even greater crisis

The BBC's Dan Isaacs

An army spokesman in Jos said troops had brought the situation under control in most areas.

But as order was restored to the normally peaceful city, reports came in of another outbreak of civil strife elsewhere in Nigeria - this time on ethnic grounds.

Places of worship attacked

Troops were out collecting machetes in Jos, a city 1,000 km (620 miles) northeast of the commercial capital Lagos, on Sunday as bodies and burnt-out cars littered the streets.

Official reports spoke of a death toll of at least 50 but unofficially it was being put at 100 or more.

Refugees head for a police camp in Jos
Most of the refugees are still too frightened to go home

The unrest, which was sparked on Friday by an argument outside a mosque, had apparently been fuelled by the recent appointment of a Muslim to head a state poverty reduction programme.

Churches and a mosque were burnt to the ground as Christian vigilantes took to the streets. They set up road blocks around the city, stopping cars and searching them for Muslims.

Fleeing residents sought refuge in police stations or army barracks, going without food and water.

Some of them [people fleeing the violence] have lost all their property in the fighting and the conditions in the barracks are deplorable

Unnamed local resident

The Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, condemned the violence.

"I wonder what sort of Muslims and Christians start burning churches and mosques - places where God is worshipped?" he said.

"True believers in God cannot start killing other human beings."

Ethnic divisions

Jos's 4m population is overwhelmingly Christian, but there is a sizeable Muslim community.

Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital, is unusual in being one of the new north Nigerian states to have a Christian majority.

Map of Nigeria

As the BBC's Dan Isaacs reports from Lagos, it appears that rapid intervention by the army prevented potentially much greater loss of life.

There was also an ethnic dimension to the conflict with many of the fighters on the Christian side members of the Berom tribe, a group native to Jos.

Fulanis and Hausas - two of Nigeria's largest groups - make up a large proportion of the Muslims.

Reports received on Sunday say that clashes also broke out on Friday in Taraba State, about 300 km south of Jos.

Fighting there between two ethnic groups, the Tiv and the Jukun, left an estimated 21 people dead.

The BBC's Dan Isaacs
"It has been a very nasty two days indeed"
See also:

11 Sep 00 | Africa
Nigeria's bishops confront Sharia
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
12 Oct 00 | Africa
Sharia compromise for Kaduna
21 Jun 00 | Africa
Analysis: Sharia takes hold
25 May 00 | Africa
Nigeria's year of turmoil
06 Aug 01 | Africa
Refugee crisis in central Nigeria
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