- Title: NIGERIA: 400 dead in clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs in Jos
- Date: 1st December 2008
- Summary: 6. JOURNALISTS AT THE CONFERENCE
- Embargoed: 16th December 2008 12:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA8B2MLSUUEQQA18QF3OZWB2114
- Story Text: Residents took more bodies to the main mosque in the Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday (November 30), bringing the death toll from two days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs to about 400 people.
Rival ethnic and religious gangs have burned homes, shops, mosques and churches in fighting triggered by a disputed local election in the city at the crossroads of Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian south. It is the country's worst unrest for years.
Murtala Sani Hashim, who has been registering the dead as they are brought to the mosque, told Reuters he had listed 367 bodies. Ten corpses wrapped in blankets, two of them infants, lay behind him awaiting burial rites.
A doctor at one of main city hospitals said he had received 25 corpses and 154 injured since the unrest began. Gunshot wounds and machete injuries were the two main types of injuries Dr Aboi Madaki of the Jos University Teaching Hospital said.
Nuhu Gagara, Plateau state information chief, said official police figures indicated that around 200 people had been killed. But he said information was still being collated.
"It's unfortunate that peace which we have all strived to sustain was Friday morning disrupted by some irate youths from Alikazoure street chanting Allahu al kabir under the guise of election dispute which had been conducted peacefully and was commended by all political parties," Gagara said at news conference on Sunday.
Jos, Plateau's capital, was calm but tense on Sunday. Soldiers patrolled on foot and in jeeps to enforce a 24-hour curfew on the worst-hit neighbourhoods. People who ventured out in some areas walked with their hands in the air to show they were unarmed.
"All indications are the situation is well contained. We believe it is almost over. It is unlikely it will spill to other states," Gagara told reporters the situation was under control and unlikely to spill over to other states.
Overturned and burnt-out vehicles littered the streets while several churches, a block of houses and an Islamic school in one neighbourhood were gutted by fire.
The Red Cross said around 7,000 people had fled their homes and were sheltering in government buildings, an army barracks and religious centres. A senior police official said five neighbourhoods had been hit by unrest and 523 people detained.
The latest clashes between gangs of Muslim Hausas and mostly Christian youths began early on Friday and were provoked by a disputed local election after news spread that the ANPP party candidate backed by Hausas had lost the race to the ruling PDP. .
Nigeria's 140 million people are roughly split equally between Muslims and Christians and the two communities generally live peacefully side by side.
Displaced people from both religions sheltered together in impromptu camps around Jos.
But ethnic and religious tensions in the country's "Middle Belt" run deep, rooted in resentment from indigenous minority groups, mostly Christian or animist, towards migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.
Hundreds were killed in ethnic-religious fighting in Jos, in 2001.
Hundreds more died in 2004 in nearby Yelwa, leading then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare an emergency.
Pope Benedict on Sunday prayed in St Peter's Square for the victims of what he called "senseless" violence.
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