Residents of Mazzah told the Reuters news agency that many of the victims were the family of a priest, including his wife, two children and grandson. Reverend Nuhu Dawat himself survived the attack.

'Act of terrorism'

Gyany Pwajok, a senior official in Plateau state where Jos is located, described the overnight attack on the village as an "act of terrorism".

The army deployed troop reinforcements to Mazzah to prevent violence from escalating and the situation was calm by Saturday afternoon, a military spokeman said.

IN DEPTH

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  Nigeria's sectarian crisis
  Video: Jos violence

"We are trying to find out the root causes of the violence," Gregory Anyating, the police commissioner in Plateau, said.

"We have not reimposed the curfew."

The Plateau state government lifted a night-time curfew for Jos and surrounding villages in May.

It had first been imposed in November 2008 during post-election violence in Jos but was extended in January following clashes between Christian and Muslim gangs.

In March, Muslim herdsmen from the Fulani and Hausa ethnic groups launched attacks against five Christian Berom Vilages near Jos, killing more than 500 people, state officials say.

Local rights groups say 1,500 people have died in inter-communal violence in the Jos region since the start of this year.

Plateau state lies in Nigeria's so-called middle belt between the mainly Christian south and the predominantly Muslim north.

Nigeria's population of 150 million is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims and the middle belt is a frequent site for conflict.

Some observers say the violence results from religion being exploited in the struggle for local power.

There have been warnings that the violence could increase in the run up to elections expected early next year.