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Last Updated: Friday, 14 April 2006, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Sand row sparks Nigeria clashes
Thousands have fled their homes in central Nigeria after three days of communal clashes sparked by a dispute over access to sand for building.

Police have arrested 200 people including two local leaders.

The fighting in Plateau State has left at least 25 people dead, according to unconfirmed reports.

State Information Commissioner Yakubu Datti would only confirm the deaths of two policemen and a soldier during efforts to restore order.

Ethnic militias armed with guns, machetes and bows and arrows, attacked each other and burnt many homes.

An elected local council chairman and a traditional ruler are among 200 people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the disturbances.

Displaced

Over 4,000 people were in displaced people's camps by Friday morning, local Red Cross officials said.

Hundreds of people, most of them women and children are now taking refuge in army barracks in the town of Shendam, less than 50km away.

Namu, a small town in the southern part of the state, is now reported to be calm after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on the area.

Reports indicate that violence spread to Shendam, as Goemai people in the area sought reprisals for the killing of their kinsfolk at Namu.

But this was halted when Governor Joshua Dariye broadcast a shoot-on-sight order to security men in the area, the BBC's Yusuf Sarki Muhammad reports.

Senator Cosmas Niagwam, who represents the district, told reporters that President Olusegun Obasanjo has also approved the drafting of soldiers to keep the peace in the area.

Rising tension

Residents say tension has been rising recently between the pan-ethnic group and other tribes over the location of a new government building which would create jobs and bring money to the area.

The trigger, though, was a dispute over who had the right to take sand from a riverbed in Namu - a right which is claimed by different ethnic groups.

Plateau State, where these clashes occurred, has been riven by ethnic violence in the past. Two years ago, hundreds were killed in clashes which began in a land dispute but quickly escalated.

Nigeria has more than 300 ethnic groups and there are often disputes, sometimes violent, over access to land and resources.



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