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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Nigerian clashes: '50,000 killed'
Girl running past burning building
In May hundreds of Muslims were killed by a Christian militia in Yelwa
More than 50,000 people have been killed in communal clashes in one Nigerian state in less than three years, a new government study says.

The violence has mostly pitted Christian farmers against Muslim animal herders in the central Plateau state.

This figure is far higher than previous estimates of the number killed.

It had been estimated that some 10,000 people had been killed in clashes between rival ethnic and religious groups across Nigeria since 1999.

'Machetes or bullets'

The new study, carried out by government officials who toured the state speaking to victims' families, says that 53,787 were killed between 7 September 2001 and 18 May 2004.

Of these, 17,459 were children, 17,397 were women and 18,931 were men.

The state governor was suspended in May for his inability to stop the violence and military administrator Chris Alli took over.

"They were killed as a result of the hostilities, some through machetes or bullets, some from other things," said Mr Alli's spokesman Ezekiel Dalyop.

"The committee visited the local governments and met with officials. Those who lost their relatives provided the statistics. Every family has figures and released them to the committee. We just did the summary," he told AFP news agency.

One of those involved in the study told BBC News Online that this figure was more reliable than previous estimates because the committee went out to meet those displaced in the fighting.

Thomas Kangnaan said that no compensation had been promised and so no-one had a reason to exaggerate.

The Nigerian authorities are often wary of saying how many people are killed in communal clashes for fear of further inflaming the situation.


Hundreds of Muslims were killed by a Christian militia in the town of Yelwa in May.

This led to revenge attacks in the mainly Muslim city of Kano against the Christian minority and tensions rose across Nigeria, before President Olusegun Obasanjo intervened to suspend the Plateau administration.

He said he was taking action to prevent "genocide".

Nigeria's 130 million people are roughly equally divided between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

Correspondents say that poverty drives rival groups to compete for scarce resources, such as land.

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