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Nigerians Begin Clean-Up After Sectarian Violence - 2001-09-11


Residents in Nigeria's central Plateau state are beginning to clean up after more than three days of violence between Muslims and Christians. International Red Cross officials say the clashes killed at least 165 people and left more than 900 wounded.

Reports from the state capital city of Jos say residents have begun to clear away debris left after bands of Muslim and Christian fighters went about the city setting fire to buildings and cars.

Much of the city on Tuesday remained littered with burned out vehicles. Buildings destroyed included at least two churches and a mosque. A number of shops were looted and burned in the city's business district.

The fighting erupted on Friday amid rising tensions between members of the state's native Christian majority and Muslims who recently have moved in from neighboring states.

Christian and Muslim youths attacked each other with guns, clubs, and machetes, prompting President Olusegun Obasanjo to authorize the deployment of troops.

"The city of Jos remains under a dusk-to-dawn curfew," the president announced.

Soldiers have been patrolling the streets of Jos and residents on Tuesday reported the gunfire had largely ceased.

Red Cross officials in Geneva, quoting the Nigerian Red Cross, say the bodies of at least 165 people have been left at local hospitals. Nigerian officials have been slow to provide casualty figures following the fighting.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has historically been plagued by ethnic or religious violence. The government is often reluctant to disclose death counts for fear of reprisals between rival groups.

The violence in Plateau state was touched off when a Christian woman breached a traffic barricade that had been set up near the main mosque in Jos. A skirmish quickly escalated to fighting that spread across the city.

Tensions had been building in recent weeks between Christians and Muslims after the government appointed a Muslim to head a poverty reduction program in the state.

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