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Nigeria: More than 200 dead in religious violence

JOS, Nigeria — Rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 200 people overnight Sunday as religious violence flared anew between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria. Hundreds fled their homes, fearing reprisal attacks.

The bodies of the dead — including many women and children — lined dusty streets in three mostly Christian villages south of the regional capital of Jos, local journalists and a civil rights group said. They said at least 200 bodies had been counted by Sunday afternoon.

Torched homes smoldered after the 3 a.m. attacks that a regionwide curfew enforced by the country's police and military should have stopped.

The killings represent the latest religious violence in an area once known as Nigeria's top tourist destination, adding to the tally of thousands already killed in the last decade in the name of religious and political ambitions.

Jos lies in Nigeria's "middle belt," where dozens of ethnic groups mingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

Nigerian military units began surrounding the affected villages Sunday afternoon, said Red Cross spokesman Robin Waubo. It was not clear if the violence was still continuing.

Jos has been under a dusk-til-dawn curfew enforced by the military since religious-based violence left more than 400 people dead and 4,000 injured in three days of clashes between Christians and Muslims in mid January, according to Civil Rights Congress, a Nigerian human-rights group. It was not clear how the attackers managed to elude the military curfew early Sunday.

In a statement Sunday night, acting President Goodluck Jonathan said security agencies would be stationed along Plateau state's borders to keep outsiders from coming in with more weapons and fighters.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, with more than 140 million people, is divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a largely Christian south.

Information from Bloomberg News was used in this report.

Nigeria: More than 200 dead in religious violence 03/07/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 7, 2010 9:29pm]
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