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Nigeria army takes control of riot-hit Jos

Soldiers in armoured tank patrol an area following violent clash at Kuru Karama, 30 kilometres from Jos Township, Plateau State on January 21, 2010.
Army troops and vehicles are now patrolling the streets of Jos

The army has taken over responsibility for security in the central city of Jos, Nigeria's Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan has said.

At least 265 people are believed to have died in religious rioting in Jos in recent days.

Mr Jonathan said the situation in Jos under control and those responsible would be brought to justice.

A BBC reporter in the region says the easing of a 24-hour curfew has allowed religious leaders to organise burials.

The vice-president made the annoucement in his first national broadcast since a court ruling last week court ruling empowering him to perform executive duties while President Umaru Yar'Adua is out of the country for health reasons.

A Red Cross official in Jos told the BBC he had seen scores of bodies on the streets, but that the army was now in control.

He said some of the 17,000 displaced people were returning home, but others had decided to flee the city itself.

A man injured in Jos

"A lot of people have died but it is very difficult to determine the number because this thing happened in various locations," Abdul Umar, the Red Cross's disaster manager co-ordinator, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"There are dead bodies that are still hidden," he said, adding that many people had gunshot and machete wounds.

The 24-hour curfew has been eased to allow city residents to leave their homes between 1000 and 1700 local time.

"People are going about their businesses while some people are packing their belongings and fleeing town, which is natural after a situation such as this," he said.

The BBC's Shehu Saulawa in neighbouring Bauchi State says there are reports of isolated attacks on the outskirts of the city, which Mr Umar confirmed.

Balarabe Dawud, head of the Central Mosque in Jos, appealed for killings not to avenged.

"Whatever action one takes, can't bring these people back," he said pointing to a burial pit, reports the AFP news agency.

Sectarianism

JOS, PLATEAU STATE
Nigeria map
Deadly riots in 2001 and 2008
City divided into Christian and Muslim areas
Divisions accentuated by system of classifying people as indigenes and settlers
Hausa-speaking Muslims living in Jos for decades are still classified as settlers
Settlers find it difficult to stand for election
Divisions also exist along party lines: Christians mostly back the ruling PDP; Muslims generally supporting the opposition ANPP

It is unclear what the trigger was for the latest bout of violence, but there have been reports it started after football match.

Other reports suggested it began after an argument over the rebuilding of homes destroyed in the 2008 clashes.

Jos has been blighted by religious violence over the past decade with deadly riots in 2001 and 2008.

The city is in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt - between the mainly Muslim north and the south where the majority is Christian or follow traditional religions.

Correspondents say such clashes in Nigeria are often blamed on sectarianism.

However, poverty and access to resources such as land often lie at the root of the violence.



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