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Nigeria Angry Over Human Rights Report

Officials in Nigeria are reacting angrily to a report by the U.S.-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch, following religious clashes in September that killed hundreds of people. The report released Tuesday says the Nigerian government did not do enough to prevent the violence between Muslims and Christians in the Plateau state capital of Jos.

The report by Human Rights Watch says as many as 1,000 people died in clashes that lasted several days. The figure cited in the report differs considerably with the government's tally. Government officials in Nigeria say about 300 people were killed.

The report by Human Rights Watch is drawing sharp criticism from officials in Plateau state. David Arondon, the state government Chief of Staff tells VOA Human Rights Watch did not consult with authorities in preparing its report. "I don't know where they got their figures. But as the government, the records we have say that 300 people lost their lives," he says. "And, it was the government that buried these dead bodies. Every record was kept."

Human Rights Watch says it based its report on the testimony of witnesses.

The report also accuses Nigerian authorities of ignoring warnings that religious violence was about to erupt in Plateau state, where tensions had been running high between members of both religious groups.

Mr. Arondon says the state government had called a meeting of Muslim and Christian community leaders before the fighting erupted. After the meeting, he says, the government appealed for people to remain calm. "The government did everything under its power to quell the crisis. So, for them to say the government did not do anything, I think that is most unfortunate."

The city of Jos has remained mostly calm since September, when President Olusegun Obasanjo dispatched police and military reinforcements to the region.

A commission of inquiry set up by state government is looking at the causes of the conflict. Until the commission issues its report, Nigerian officials argue it is too early to blame anyone for the violence.