Nigeria's acting president ordered Sunday that the "roving band of killers" responsible for slaughtering over 100 people near the city of Jos must be apprehended. The region has recently seen an escalation in inter-religious violence.
REUTERS - Nigeria’s Acting President on Sunday ordered security forces to hunt down those behind clashes involving Muslim herders and Christian villagers which killed more than 100 people in the centre of the country.
The latest unrest in Nigeria’s volatile Plateau state comes at a difficult time, with acting leader Goodluck Jonathan trying to assert his authority while country’s ailing leader Umaru Yar’Adua remains too sick to govern the oil-producing nation.
Villagers in Dogo Nahawa, just south of the city of Jos, said Hausa-Fulani herders from the surrounding hills attacked at about 3 a.m. (0200 GMT), shooting into the air before slashing those who came out of their homes with machetes.
The violence took place close to where sectarian clashes killed hundreds of people in January.
“The Acting President has placed all the security forces in Plateau and neighbouring states on red alert so as to stem any cross-border dimensions to this latest conflict,” Jonathan’s office said in a statement.
“He has also directed that the security services undertake strategic initiatives to confront and defeat these roving bands of killers,” he said.
A Reuters witness who visited the village counted around 100 bodies piled in the open air. Pam Dantong, medical director of Plateau State Hospital in Jos, showed reporters 18 corpses that had been brought from the village, some of them charred.
Officials said other bodies had been taken to a second hospital in the state capital, Jos.
Gregory Yenlong, spokesman for Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, said as many as 500 people may have been killed but there was no independent confirmation of this.
“The shooting was just meant to bring people from their houses and then when people came out they started cutting them with machetes,” said Dogo Nahawa resident Peter Jang, women crying behind him.
Four days of sectarian clashes in January between mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes killed hundreds of people in Jos, which lies at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
Jonathan deployed hundreds of troops and police to quell January’s unrest, in which community leaders put the death toll at more than 400. Official police figures estimated the death toll from the clashes two months ago at 326.
Yenlong said the state government may consider extending a dusk-to-dawn curfew still in place after January’s unrest.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the latest unrest, but thousands have died in religious and ethnic violence in central Nigeria over the past 10 years.
The tension is rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.
The instability underscores the fragility of Africa’s most populous nation as it approaches the campaign period for 2011 elections with uncertainty over who is in charge.
Yar’Adua returned from three months in a Saudi hospital, where he was being treated for a heart condition, a week and a half ago but has still not been seen in public. Presidency sources say he remains in a mobile intensive care unit.
Fears of a debilitating power struggle between Yar’Adua’s inner circle, keen to maintain its grip on power, and Jonathan sprang up in the OPEC member state of 140 million people when the 58-year-old leader was brought back late at night.
Jonathan has moved quickly to reassert his authority, chairing his first cabinet meeting since Yar’Adua’s return.
Date created : 2010-03-07