Page last updated at 04:00 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Nigeria charges 49 over Jos killings

Police on patrol in Jos
Police and troops have stepped up patrols in the area

Nigerian police say 49 people are to be charged with murder after communal violence left scores of villagers dead.

Most of those facing charges are Muslims from the Fulani group, police spokesman Mohammed Lerama told the BBC.

The number of those arrested since the killings near the city of Jos has risen to 200, he said.

Police say 109 people - thought to be mostly Christians - died in Sunday's bloodshed. Earlier reports put the toll at more than 500.

'Burnt bodies'

The violence followed sectarian killings near Jos in January that left more than 300 dead, most of them believed to be Muslims.

They killed them, cut their bodies, put fire on them. And the babies. They killed all the children
Pepi, Eyewitness

Plateau State, in central Nigeria, sits between the mainly Christian south and the predominantly Muslim north.

Although the violence takes place largely between Muslims and Christians, analysts say the underlying causes are economic and political.

A survivor in the village of Dogo Nahawa, near the city of Jos, told the BBC he heard his neighbours scream as they were attacked.

"I went to my neighbour's house. I saw all the wives, they killed them, cut their bodies, put fire on them. And the babies. They killed all the children," Pepi said.

Gabriel, the community leader, said his five-year-old granddaughter had been hacked to death with a machete by Fulani-speaking men who had started shooting a heavy machine gun to scare the residents into the open.

"The shooting was so heavy that people were afraid. People were running helter skelter because... they had never heard something like this before. [They] ran into them, and they were machete-ed."

International pressure

Officials say police and troops are patrolling the area to prevent further trouble.

Chief of police for Plateau State Ikechukwu Aduba said on Wednesday he had asked for extra help.

Komla Dumor
Komla Dumor
BBC News

Days after the attacks the village is still a scene of devastation. All around me there are houses that have been burned - they are blackened and charred. The village is in shock - there is not a single person in this community who has not been affected.

The people are now beginning to take security into their own hands. They are organising groups of young men and saying: "If the authorities cannot protect us, we have to protect ourselves."

The geography of the plateau is flat and open - so access to villages like this is pretty much unimpeded. So unless there is a very strong security presence, people feel very vulnerable.

"Our urgent patrol efforts after the incident... have yielded good results," he said.

"We have requested reinforcements, and have been reassured... that reinforcement is on its way."

However, international pressure is growing on the Nigerian government to take further action.

On Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI denounced the bloodshed as "atrocious".

He urged civil and religious leaders "to work towards security and peaceful co-existence".

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called on the Nigerian government to "move swiftly" to prevent further attacks.

Earlier, the governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, said security lapses had worsened the carnage in the three villages targeted.

He said he had warned the army about reports of suspicious people with weapons hours before they attacked, but they failed to take action.

"Three hours or so later, I was woken by a call that they [armed gangs] have started burning the village and people were being hacked to death," Mr Jang said.

"I tried to locate the commanders. I couldn't get any of them on the telephone."


Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked the country's national security adviser, Sarki Mukhtar, in an apparent response to the killings.

Map of Nigeria showing Jos

But the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said the villages should have been properly protected after the January killings.

The head of the northern area of Nigeria's Christian Association has said he believed mercenaries were involved.

Saidu Dogo told the BBC that fighters from neighbouring Chad and Niger took part in the violence.

State information commissioner Gregory Yenlong said on Monday that more than 500 people were killed. That figure was also given by religious leaders and rights activists.

But state police commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba says 109 people are known to have died.

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