Muslims in Nigerian town 'massacred'

More than 200 Muslims are dead and 120 missing after Christian fighters attacked a central Nigerian town, one of Nigeria's senior Islamic leaders has said, branding the assault "mass murder".

    Obasanjo has sent heavy police reinforcements

    Abd al-Kadir Orire, secretary general of Nigeria's main Muslim representative body the Jama'atu Nasril Islam, said: "Between 200 and 250 people were killed in the violence, while many have disappeared."


    "Those who disappeared cannot be accounted for, nobody knows if they are dead or in hiding. 120 people including women and children are missing," he said on Wednesday, citing the testimony of refugees fleeing the flashpoint town of Shendam.


    "There are difficulties in getting exact figures because the situation is still tense, and it will take time to account for the exact number of dead and missing. It's mass murder, because machine guns were used, not machetes."


    Heavily armed


    Late on Sunday, heavily armed fighters from the Christian Tarok ethnic group stormed Yelwa, a farming community in the Shendam local government area of central Nigeria's Plateau State, 300 km east of Abuja.


    According to witnesses who fled the scene, some of the Christian fighters sprayed the town with heavy-calibre automatic fire from machine guns mounted on two jeeps, while others armed with machetes and rifles razed homes and attacked residents.


    "It's mass murder, because machine guns were used, not machetes"

    Abd al-Kadir Orire,
    secretary-general, Jama'atu Nasril Islam

    Plateau State Police Commissioner Innocent Iluozoke on Tuesday said that two mosques in the mainly Muslim Hausa-speaking community were damaged and that police had recovered 67 bodies, while more had been buried by local people.


    Meanwhile, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has sent 600 heavily armed police reinforcements to back up Iluozoke's peacekeeping efforts in the southern portion of Plateau, which has long been prey to ethnic violence.


    The Tarok are mainly Christian and are subsistence farmers, while their Hausa and Fulani rivals are often nomadic herdsmen, whose livestock threaten their neighbours' crops. Both groups claim ancestral rights to the land.


    There have been several recent reports of large-scale massacres in Plateau State and neighbouring Taraba State, but accurate casualty tolls are hard to obtain in a remote and permanently unsafe area of the country.


    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel's Hilltop Youth

    Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel's Hilltop Youth

    Meet the hardline group willing to do anything, including going against their government, to claim land for Israel.