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Gunfire sends jittery villagers fleeing in tense Jos area

Tensions around the central Nigerian city of Jos remained high following the weekend’s brutal massacre, as fresh gunfire sent Christian villagers fleeing on Tuesday amid claims the military ignored warnings of an impending attack.

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Troops patrolled Christian parts of Jos on Wednesday after gunfire rocked the troubled central Nigerian city, sending residents fleeing to police barracks for shelter.

Tensions remained high amid accusations that military chiefs ignored warnings of an impending massacre last week, in which more than 500 people were slaughtered with rifles and machetes in Christian villages.

Residents packed police barracks after an eruption of gunfire on Tuesday night, but most had returned to their homes by early morning.

RFI correspondent Julie Vandal, reporting for FRANCE 24, said residents panicked after hearing ten minutes of sustained firing.

“According to police sources, soldiers had gone to the predominantly Christian district to the north of Jos to bring calm after residents said a lorry carrying Muslim Fulani had been spotted entering the area,” she reported. “The residents feared a further reprisal and the soldiers shot in the air for about ten minutes, apparently to persuade people to go back to their homes.”

She added: “Calm has returned but the situation remains extremely tense

Warning ignored

The city of Jos lies on the dividing line between Nigeria's mainly Muslim north and Christian-dominated south. In recent years, ethnic strife has led to thousands of deaths in the area.

Jonah Jang, governor of Plateau state, of which Jos is the capital city, said security lapses were to blame for the scale of last week’s massacre.

Jang blamed the military for failing to respond to his warning that movements of armed men had been reported by villagers shortly before the attacks.

"Three hours or so later, I was woken by a call that said they (armed gangs) had started burning villages and people were being hacked to death,” Jang told reporters.

He added: "I tried to contact the army commanders, but I couldn’t get any of them on the telephone."

Nigerian authorities say more than 500 people from the mainly Christian Berom ethnic group were hacked to death with machetes, axes and daggers in the villages of Dogo Nahawa, Ratsat and Zot on Sunday morning. According to local sources, the death toll is between 200 and 400.

Sunday's attacks were only the latest between rival ethnic and religious groups. Locals say they resulted from a feud ignited by cattle theft and ensuing reprisals.

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