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Nearly 50 Die in Nigerian Ethnic Clashes - 2004-02-25

Nearly 50 people are reported dead in a small farming town in central Nigeria following ethnic clashes.

Police in Yelwa in central Nigeria confirmed on Wednesday that a raid by armed Muslim warriors had resulted in the slaughter of residents of the mainly Christian community.

The initial death toll was reported after a group from the village ran to a nearby church for shelter. According to the state police commissioner, Innocent Ilozuoke, the people were pursued and killed by the fighters.

The violence continued after that, and the final number of victims has yet to be determined.

Conflicts in the region erupted earlier this month, when Christian fighters reportedly killed 10 members of the Muslim community in the neighboring Wase district.

Ethnic clashes, along with arguments over land rights for grazing livestock, have led the communities to engage in guerrilla-type warfare. In 2001, nearly 1000 people were killed in riots in the region. Because of the instability, the Nigerian army has deployed troops to assist the police. No arrests have been made, but an army official says the situation had been brought under control.