Jos lies in the so-called Middle Belt between the country's mostly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south

Gangs of armed youths in the Nigerian city of Jos attacked Muslims as they gathered to celebrate the last day of Ramadan, killing a number of them and burning their cars, witnesses and the military said.

"The Muslim faithful went for their Eid prayers and on completion of the prayers they were trapped by the youths in that area," Brigadier General Hassan Umaru, commander of the military Special Task Force keeping security in Jos, told Reuters news agency on Monday.

"They burnt some cars, quite a number a of cars. The number of people killed, I can't give that yet. We are still checking with local hospital sources," he said.

The head of a search-and-rescue team for the Muslim community reported nine dead and 106 people wounded.

"Most of the wounds were from ... thrown missiles, machete cuts and from arrows. Twenty parents have so far reported their underage children missing," said Shitu Mohammed.

Witnesses said Christian youths set up road blocks and attacked Muslims as they gathered in Jos's Gada Biu and Rukuba areas, shooting a number of them dead.

Christians involved in the clashes spoke of revenge for a string of bombs that exploded in Jos on Christmas Eve last year that left at least 80 people dead.

Nigeria has a roughly equal Christian-Muslim mix.

More than 200 ethnic groups live side by side in the West African country. Though generally peaceful, Nigeria has seen periodic bouts of religious violence, with Jos in particular showing a tendency to flare up.

The region lies in the so-called Middle Belt between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south of Africa's most populous nation.

If the violence worsens or triggers reprisals, it may prove another major headache for President Goodluck Jonathan, whose security forces are already stretched by daily attacks from an Islamist sect in the northeast, which also claimed Friday's deadly bomb attack on the UN offices in Abuja that killed 23.

Source: Agencies