Kingsley Igwe and Shuaibu Mohammed, Reuters, January 20, 2010
The death toll after four days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs in the Nigerian city of Jos and nearby communities has topped 460, according to a mosque official and human rights activists.
Six military units and hundreds of police were stationed throughout Plateau state’s capital city in central Nigeria to enforce a 24-hour curfew Wednesday.
The relative calm has allowed mosque officials to retrieve more bodies from neighbourhoods just outside Jos.
“We found more than 200 bodies gathered at the mosque in Kuru Gada Biu and 22 more at Mai Adiko,” said Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials, who had earlier estimated the death toll among Muslims at 177.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch put the number of Christian dead at 65.
Official police figures were significantly lower with 35 people dead, 40 injured and 168 arrested since Sunday.
“More troops have come in and the situation is now under control. But there are still many hoodlums dressed in fake police and military outfits causing havoc,” said Gregory Yenlong, spokesman for the Plateau state government.
This week’s violence erupted after an argument between Muslim and Christian neighbors over the rebuilding of homes destroyed in the 2008 clashes.
The fighting is unlikely to have a big impact on sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy. Its oil industry is in the south and its banking sector mainly in the commercial capital Lagos.
The city’s main hospital, Jos University Teaching Hospital, was forced to turn away some patients late Tuesday because doctors were too overwhelmed. “Ninety percent of the casualties were from gunshot injuries with a few from knives and bows and arrows,” said Dr. Dabit Joseph, who works at the hospital.
The Red Cross has 40 staff workers and several volunteers at seven centres in Jos to help thousands of displaced residents, an agency spokesman said.
Nigeria has roughly equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, although traditional animist beliefs underpin many people’s faiths.