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Mass Arrests Follow Nigeria Violence - 2001-09-17


Nigeria's government announces mass arrests following this month's deadly clashes between Muslims and Christians in central Plateau state.

Nigerian police have taken more than 300 people into custody in the days since the fighting broke out in Plateau state's capital city, Jos.

Relief agencies and religious groups in the state say more than 500 people died in street clashes between Muslims and Christians armed with guns, clubs and machetes. The government, fearing further reprisals, has issued a much lower death toll.

Outside of an announcement on Nigerian state television Sunday, officials have not commented on the arrests or on the identities or affiliations of the detainees.

Clashes began September 7 in Jos, when a Christian woman crossed a barricade that had been set up near a mosque. Skirmishes quickly spread across the city with fighters attacking a number of buildings. At least two churches and scores of cars were set on fire.

The violence subsided after President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered federal troops deployed in the state. Fighting erupted again for several hours on Wednesday.

On Saturday, President Obasanjo got a first-hand look at the devastation. The Nigerian leader renewed his calls for an end to ethnic and religious violence.

The fighting in Jos erupted amid brewing tensions between Christian natives of Plateau State and Muslims who are seen by some as newcomers.

Those tensions were heightened recently after the federal government appointed a Muslim to head a poverty alleviation program. Some Christians accuse the government of placing the new director in a position where he could favor Muslims in the distribution of aid.

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