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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Scores die in Nigeria clashes
Victim of violence in Jos beside his burnt-out car
Vigilantes killed and burned their victims
Reports from the central Nigerian city of Jos says more than 160 people have been killed in three days of violence between Muslims and Christians.

Terrified residents described how armed gangs of youths were roaming the streets, attacking members of other communities.

Thousands have sought refuge with police, and medical services have battled to cope with the numbers of dead and wounded.


I wonder what sort of Muslims and Christians start burning churches and mosques - places where God is worshipped

President Olusegun Obasanjo
The northern city of Kano has also been hit by an outbreak of communal clashes, with a church set on fire.

An official of the International Red Cross, Phillip Macham, said: "Our records, at this afternoon, show that 165 bodies have been deposited at various hospitals in Jos", but he warned that the final death toll may be even higher.

He said that, in addition, more than 900 had been injured as rival gangs rampaged through the city of four million people.

James Alalade, a pastor of the burnt church in Kano, told Reuters news agency: "They (youths) just came in with their weapons and petrol in cans and asked everybody out before setting the church ablaze. Nobody could stop them, they were heavily armed."

'No link'

Kano has been the scene of more than a dozen violent religious clashes in the past 20 years but police said there was no link to the violence in Jos.

Nigerian soldiers patrol roads in the city of Jos
Troops are patrolling the main streets of Jos

"What happened here (Kano) has nothing to do with the clashes in Jos," said Uba Bello, Kano state police commissioner.

Earlier on Monday, the authorities gave far lower casualty figures for the fighting in Jos, but also acknowledged they were not "final".

An official spokesman put the number of dead at 51 with more than 500 injured since the outbreak of fighting on Friday.

Correspondents say the figure could have been played down for fear of igniting fresh clashes.

Curfew

Churches, mosques, cars and houses were burned down, as the authorities extended a curfew to try to calm the situation.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the military into the city at the weekend, and they appear to have gradually restored order, although small-scale skirmishes have continued.

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

Thousands of people fled their homes in Jos and sought refuge in military and police compounds when the fighting erupted.

A journalist in Jos, Shehu Sawlawa, told the BBC's Network Africa that, although the presence of the security forces had given some people the confidence to begin returning to their homes, others have been leaving on buses and open top lorries.

President Obasanjo has condemned the violence.

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

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

False rumour

The population of Jos is overwhelmingly Christian, but there is a sizeable Muslim community.

The unrest was sparked on Friday by an argument outside a mosque, after which vigilante groups went on the rampage following a false rumour that a Christian church had been burnt down.

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

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

Relations between Christians and Muslims in northern Nigeria have been tense since the introduction of the Sharia Islamic law in 12 states.

In February 2000, more than 2,000 people were killed in religious unrest in Kaduna, and some 450 more Nigerians died in reprisals in the south-east of the country.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Chiaka Nwosu
"Residents speak of armed gangs roaming the streets"
Nigerian Red Cross secretary-general, Abiodun Orbiyi
"We cannot rule out future problems"
Eyewitness Ivan Watson
"I counted five bodies, two people just shot by soldiers"
See also:

09 Sep 01 | Africa
Dozens killed in Nigeria violence
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
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