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Nigeria riots kill at least 300

JOS, Nigeria — Mobs burned homes, churches and mosques Saturday in a second day of riots. The death toll rose to more than 300 in the worst sectarian violence in Africa's most populous nation in years.

Sheikh Khalid Abubakar, the imam at the city's main mosque, said more than 300 bodies were brought there on Saturday and 183 could be seen lying near the building waiting to be interred.

Those killed in the Christian community would not likely be taken to the city mosque, raising the possibility that the death toll could be much higher. The city morgue wasn't accessible Saturday.

Police spokesman Bala Kassim said there were "many dead," but couldn't cite a firm number.

The hostilities mark the worst clashes in the restive West African nation since 2004, when as many as 700 people died in Plateau State during Christian-Muslim clashes.

Jos, the capital of Plateau State, has a long history of community violence that has made it difficult to organize voting. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people.

The city is situated in Nigeria's "middle belt," where members of hundreds of ethnic groups commingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

Authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew in the hardest-hit areas of the central Nigerian city, where traditionally pastoralist Hausa Muslims live in tense, close quarters with Christians from other ethnic groups.

The fighting began as clashes between supporters of the region's two main political parties after the first local election in the town of Jos in more than a decade. The violence expanded along ethnic and religious fault lines, with Hausas and members of Christian ethnic groups doing battle.

Angry mobs gathered Thursday in Jos after electoral workers failed to publicly post results in ballot collation centers, prompting many onlookers to assume that the vote was the latest in a long line of fraudulent Nigerian elections.

Nigeria riots kill at least 300 11/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:41am]

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