Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

ICC 'must probe Nigeria religious violence in Jos'

A soldier in Jos, 22/01
Both mosques and churches were targeted during the violence

A Nigerian rights group has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate violence between Muslims and Christians in the city of Jos.

The group, known as Serap, wrote to ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asking him to open an inquiry into the deaths of 326 people in the riots.

The activists also want the army and police investigated over claims they used excessive force to restore order.

Muslims and Christians fought with each other for several days in January.

The official death toll was given by police as 326 - although other estimates are much higher, with Muslim officials saying that 364 Muslims were killed.

Christian leaders have not yet confirmed a death toll - although earlier estimates said around 65 Christians had died.

More than 300 people have been arrested.

'Too weak'

Lawyer Femi Falana wrote the letter to Mr Moreno-Ocampo, arguing that the ICC should step in because the government was unlikely to take action.

Nigeria map
Deadly riots in 2001 and 2008
City divided into Christian and Muslim areas
People classified as indigenes and settlers - Hausa-speaking Muslims living in Jos for decades still classified as settlers
Christians mostly back the ruling PDP; Muslims generally supporting the opposition ANPP

"Those who are suspected to be responsible for the latest violence and previous outbreaks of deadly violence in Jos have not been arrested let alone brought to justice," Mr Falana's letter stated.

"The government has shown itself to be too weak to act, contrary to its international legal obligations, including under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."

Hundreds of people were killed in similar outbreaks of violence in Jos in both 2008 and 2001.

Meanwhile, the violence has soured relations between Plateau state, where Jos is located, and neighbouring Bauchi state.

Some MPs in the Bauchi legislature want all people from Plateau state to be sent back home.

Bauchi is mainly Muslim, while Plateau has a Christian majority.

The Bauchi MPs argue that the violence shows Plateau indigenes do not respect a Nigerian's constitutional right to live and work in anywhere in the country - therefore they should not enjoy such rights in other states.

The Plateau state government has called the move "childish" and "unfortunate".

Violence erupted in Jos on 17 January and rapidly spread to nearby villages.

Several thousand people remain displaced, having abandoned their homes to escape the violence.

Jos, the capital of Plateau state, lies between Nigeria's mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south and has seen sectarian riots in the recent past.

But analysts say the real cause of the violence is a struggle for political superiority in the city.

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