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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Eyewitness: Simmering tensions in Jos
A woman walks past a burning lorry following the violence in Jos
More than 100 are thought to have died in the unrest
By Ivan Watson in Jos, Nigeria

From a vantage point overlooking the city of Jos on Sunday night you could hear gunfire intermittently every couple of minutes in the city below.

The military and police presence in the city is substantial. The police and army are trying to enforce a curfew in the hope of trying to put a stop to the violence between Christians and Muslims.

Refugees head for a police camp in Jos
Residents fled for their lives
They may be firing out of fear, or just to make their presence known.

But at one point in the night shots went off and in unison a crowd yelled in response, which suggests that there were still some gangs of youths patrolling the streets.

Officials are citing figures of between 50 and 70 dead. When this type of ethic and religious sectarian violence breaks out in Nigeria, the official casualty figures are often quite low to discourage the cycle of revenge killings between rival groups.

On the drive into Jos I counted five bodies, two of which were of people who had just been shot by soldiers in some kind of altercation between civilians and the military.

Other colleagues counted nine bodies. You speak to locals and they say more than 100, or perhaps hundreds.

Given there are dozens and dozens of cars that have been torched - one of the methods that the mobs seemed to have used was to stop cars at road blocks, pull people out, set fire to the bodies and set fire to the cars - I would estimate that there are more than 100 dead so far in this conflict.

Controversial appointment

Based on a number of interviews on Saturday, it seemed clear that at that time Christians were going after Hausa-speaking Muslims. It is tough to gauge just what took place on Sunday - the fighting was not as extreme and died down by midday.

Nigerian soldier outside Mosque
There is still a heavy military presence in the city
Locals are pointing to the fact that a Hausa-speaking Muslim politician was appointed to an influential government committee as the source of tension.

The conflict was then set off by what seems a minor event on Friday - a Christian trying to drive through a road that was blocked during Muslim prayer time.

The atmosphere in Jos is still extremely tense. Some locals say that with the help of the army and police this will come to an end.

Other people admit that they have participated in some of the indiscriminate mob killings of members of rival religious and ethnic groups, so it is clear that Jos remains an ethnic and religious tinderbox.

Ivan Watson is a journalist for US National Public Radio.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | Africa
Scores die in Nigeria clashes
09 Sep 01 | Africa
Dozens killed in Nigeria violence
21 Jun 00 | Africa
Analysis: Sharia takes hold
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
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