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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Nigeria pledges to curb religious strife
Soldier dispersing a Mob near a mosque
Work has to be found for idle hands
The Nigerian Government says it will work to halt violence in Jos following a renewed outbreak of fighting between Muslims and Christians.

Reports say that at least 500 people may have been killed, while the terror attacks on the US may have rekindled religious tensions.


Prompt action by the security services when fighting erupts is required

BBC's Manir Dan-Ali
A BBC correspondent in the city says she saw two people killed with machetes by people shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).

Briefing reporters after a cabinet meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, Transport Minister Ojo Madueke said the situation is of grave concern to the government.

Confidence building

"The president has put together a high powered delegation comprising ministers that will go to Jos, Jigawa and Kono (states) to assess the situation and appeal for calm," he said.

The BBC's Manir Dan-Ali a BBC in Abuja says the government needs to get leaders of different religious faiths around the table for confidence building talks.

He said: "Prompt action by the security services when fighting erupts is required as they failed to respond fast enough to stop the three days of religious bloodshed in Jos".

Anxious Muslim women
Residents of Jos are worried about more violence

The state-run Daily Times said 500 people had so far been buried as a result of the violence which started last weekend.

The authorities have only admitted to 51 deaths and correspondents say they are unwilling to reveal the true extent of the violence in case tensions are further heightened.

Reuters news agency said that Muslim celebrations at the attacks on the US may have sparked the renewed fighting.

'Jubilating'

Reuters quoted a resident of Nasarawa district on the outskirts of Jos as saying: "Some (Muslim) people have been jubilating because of what happened in the US, and I believe that must have encouraged them."

The French news agency, AFP, reports that violence had again spread to the northern city of Kano, where a church was burnt on Monday.

AFP says hundreds of Muslim youths attacked two churches in the Shagari Quarters district of the city.

Catholic catechist Casmir Ogunma said the Holy Trinity church had been razed to the ground and the priest's residence set on fire by youths angered by events in Jos.

Leaving

A Christian, James Enoch, said that he was leaving Kano.

"I can't live here any more. These youths are dangerous. They promised to come back and said when they come back nobody will be spared," he said.

Minister Ojo Madueke
Cycling transport minister says the situation is of grave concern

People are also fleeing Jos. Reuters says that tens of thousands have left since the fighting broke out after Muslim prayers last Friday.

Analysts say an improved economic situation with job-creation schemes would help make use of the idle hands who go out and cause trouble.

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

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 Nora Amaka Dike in Jos
"People were shouting 'Allahu Akbar'. I saw vividly how two people were slaughtered with machetes"
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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