Authorities relaxed a 24-hour curfew in the Nigerian city of Jos on Wednesday after relative calm returned following four days of violent Christian-Muslim clashes that left nearly 300 dead.
AFP - Fighting eased on Wednesday in the Nigerian city of Jos after troops deployed to end four days of Christian-Muslim clashes that left nearly 300 dead and sent thousands fleeing.
Authorities relaxed a 24-hour curfew in the city after the reduction in violence, which at least one witness said had included mobs going door-to-door, hacking and shooting those inside.
"The 24-hour curfew has now been relaxed. It will now run from 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) to 10:00 am (0900 GMT)," Ezekiel Dalyop, Plateau State information ministry director general, told AFP by phone from Jos, the state capital.
He said the decision was reached "due to the relative calm and peace that have returned to Jos" -- a flashpoint of religious violence in Nigeria, whose 150 million people are divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims.
Residents and aid agencies confirmed fighting that erupted on Sunday had subsided, even in nearby towns where the violence had spread.
"The situation has eased, fighting has stopped. There is no more burning of houses, but a large number of people have been displaced," said the local Red Cross chief Awwalu Mohammed.
At least 20,000 took refuge in military barracks, churches and mosques after gun- and machete-wielding gangs rampaged across the city on Tuesday.
"The city is calm this evening, no more shootings and no more arsons," resident Lawal Adamu told AFP by phone.
Residents had earlier said the fighting spread overnight to areas on the fringes of Jos.
A witness reported that that violent mobs went house-to-house, and buildings and vehicles were set ablaze in several parts of the city.
"The Christian youths came in large numbers, wielding machetes and firing indiscriminately on the streets," said Rakya Usman, who had been living in an area south of Jos called Dogon Karfe but has since relocated into the city.
"They broke into homes, set them ablaze and attacked residents with their machetes and guns."
UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over the clashes and appealed for all sides to use restraint and "seek peaceful solutions to religious and other differences in the country."
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan ordered extra troops into the city late Tuesday but for many, it came too late.
"Today people are counting their losses, many were slaughtered and burnt inside their homes," said a civil rights activist, Shehu Sani, speaking from Jos.
Police Minister Ibrahim Yakubu Lame blamed the clashes "on some highly placed individuals in the society who were exploiting the ignorance and poverty of the people to cause mayhem in the name of religion and ethnicity."
Muslim and Christian leaders, as well as a paramedic, gave tolls of nearly 300 dead but there was no official confirmation.
About 200 bodies had been taken to the central mosque in Jos by late Tuesday, an imam there said. A Christian clergyman said he had counted 65 bodies elsewhere.
Several hundred people have been reported wounded and casualties have filled hospitals. Some clinics were reportedly running out of medical supplies.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said more than 13,500 people have died in religious or ethnic clashes in Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999.
Some religious figures said this week's fighting had more to do with social issues than faith.
"The truth of the matter is that this violence has little to do with religion," Matthew Hassan Kukah, vicar-general of Catholic archdiocese in the northern state of Kaduna.
"It's a failure of government to address national integration. It's failure of polity and inability of the political elite to address issues."
Observers said impunity had also contributed to new outbreaks of violence.
"This is not the first outbreak of deadly violence in Jos, but the government has shockingly failed to hold anyone accountable," said HRW researcher Corinne Dufka.
Nigeria's Senate ordered a probe into reports that of the 100 people arrested in Jos, five were caught in full military gear and with military firearms.
In November 2008, hundreds were killed in two days of fighting in Jos triggered by a rumour that a mainly Muslim party had lost a local election to a Christian-dominated party.
Date created : 2010-01-20