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Reports: Hundreds Dead as Muslims, Christians Clash in Nigeria

According to eyewitness reports, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands forced to flee their homes in the central Nigerian city of Jos when Christians and Muslims clashed over the result of a local election.

People in the Nigerian city of Jos cry as someone is lying on the ground during clashes in 2001

Religious clashes already erupted in Jos in 2001

"So far about 400 bodies have been brought to the mosque following the outbreak of violence," Khaled Abubakar, the imam of the central mosque in Jos, told AFP new service. "Families are coming to identify and claim the bodies, while those that can not be identified or nobody claims them will be interred by the mosque."

Earlier in the day, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale in Jos, Aminu Manu, told AFP he had counted 381 bodies at the mosque.

A map of Nigeria with Jos and Lago marked on it

Jos lies in central Nigeria and is the capital of Plateau state

"Hundreds of people have been killed in the last two days since the riots started," Christian clergyman Yakumu Pam said. "Remains of burned bodies litter some parts of the town. It is so terrible."

Another Jos-based reporter for the Punch newspaper had told AFP Friday he counted 55 bodies in three hospitals.

Aminu Manu said the bodies in the hospitals are thought to be those of Christians.

"So far over 10,000 people have been displaced from their homes and are now seeking refuge in churches, mosques and army and police barracks," a Nigerian Red Cross official in Jos, Dan Tom, said. "I can't give any figures but there are dead bodies on the streets that are yet to be evacuated. We are afraid of an outbreak of an epidemic if they are allowed to decompose."

Confirmed death toll lower

A soldier throws to ground a suspected troublemaker in Jos in September 2001

A soldier throws to ground a suspected troublemaker in Jos in September 2001

Other local reports said more than 75 people had been killed since the clashes over council elections began Friday, but a police spokesman for the state, Bala Kassim, said that he could only confirm about 65.

Gun battles between security agents and the protesters continued as the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission announced Saturday that the ruling People's Democratic Party won in 16 of the 17 council areas of the state.

The violence was sparked by a delay in the announcement of the results, prompting suspicions of fraud. Kassim said that some of those killed were students from various tertiary institutions located in the city.

"The violence is no respecter of class of citizen, but I know that some of the bodies deposited in mortuaries across the town are students," he said.

History of violence

A soldier disperses Muslims gathered at Massalachi Juma mosque in Jos in 2001

A soldier disperses Muslims gathered at Massalachi Juma mosque in Jos in 2001

The violence is between indigenous Christians and Muslim settlers. Jos has a history of sectarian violence. Mosques, churches and other properties have been razed to the ground during the clashes.

Kassim said the police deployed more armored vehicles "to comb the city" and ensure that the situation was brought quickly under control.

More armored police vehicles arrived in Jos Saturday morning to beef up security and help put down the political violence. Traffic began to pick up Saturday as many residents went in search of food and other essentials to beat the curfew imposed by Governor Jang Friday.

The dusk-to-dawn curfew begins at 6 p.m. every day. Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua Friday ordered the Nigerian military to take charge in Jos as the violence worsened.

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