Violence grips Nigeria

Deadly clashes between Christians and Muslim in Nigeria continue ahead of April elections.

    Bomb attacks and clashes add a horrific new facet to the conflict between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups[AFP]

    Fresh violence has flared up in the Nigerian flashpoint city of Jos after clashes between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria last week left 35 people dead.

    The incidents, reported by police on Sunday, were the latest in a cycle of violence in volatile central Nigeria, where religious rioting has killed scores in recent years.

    "Thirty-five people have been killed in sectarian violence in Tafawa Balewa on Thursday," said Bauchi police commissioner Abdulkadir Mohammed Indabawa.

    Only last week police had reported riots that had killed four people and arson attacks that had destroyed five mosques and 50 houses.

    In neighbouring Plateau state's capital of Jos meanwhile, more than a dozen people had died after clashes sparked by the stabbing Friday of university students by Muslim villagers, Muslim and Christian community leaders said.

    Churches, mosques, filling stations, houses and food kiosks were set ablaze over the weekend.

    On Sunday the military sent in reinforcements aided by helicopters for "aggressive patrols," according to a military spokesman, who said they had made 27 arrests.

    During the violence, one policeman had been beheaded and his body burnt, he added.

    Steady uptick in violence

    Local residents reported sporadic gunfire in the morning in the worst affected neighbourhoods.

    "We have so far recovered 15 bodies in different parts of the city affected by yesterday's violence," said Mohammed Shitu, head of a Muslim rescue team in Jos.

    Some had machete cuts, some gunshot wounds while others had been burnt, he said.

    Sunday Gomna, reverend with Emmanuel Baptist Church, said he's aware of three people killed in the village of Ayaruje in one day.

    Meanwhile, in a separate incident in neighbouring Bauchi, also a common site of clashes between Muslims and Christians, police said worshippers on Sunday had helped foil an attempt to bomb a church.

    Bauchi State police commissioner Mohammed Abdulkadir Indabawa said an unidentified man masquerading as a worshipper dropped a laptop bag containing a remote-controlled homemade bomb in a Methodist church in Bauchi city.

    Churchgoers became suspicious when the man walked out leaving the bag on a bench but failed to apprehend him. A police bomb squad defused the explosive.

    Christian-Muslim tensions

    Suspected members of an Islamist sect Boko Haram that launched an uprising in 2009 attacked a prison in Bauchi last September, freeing more than 700 inmates.

    The group, which clashed with police last year, also claimed responsibility for a series of Christmas Eve bomb blasts, including in churches in the central city of Jos that killed dozens.

    Further north in Maiduguri, where the sect of believed to have its base, a checkpoint shootout left two suspected members of the radical sect and a policeman dead on Sunday, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar, police commissioner for Borno state told the AFP news service.

    Plateau state, part of the so-called middle belt between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

    The region has been hit by waves of violence in recent years that have killed scores of people, and there has been a sharp increase in clashes ahead of April elections.

    Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is divided almost in half between the two faiths.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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