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Nigerian Security Forces Restore Order to Central Plateau State - 2004-05-05

Nigerian security forces are restoring order in remote areas of central Plateau State, where recent sectarian violence has left scores of people dead.

Nigerian officials say calm returned to the highlands town of Telwa, as hundreds of police reinforcements started arriving to quash revenge attacks by Christian ethnic-Tarok fighters against the mainly Muslim-ethnic Hausa community.

A Nigerian journalist from Plateau State, Isa Abdusalami, says local authorities also announced drastic measures to put a stop to the recurring violence.

?The deputy governor of Plateau state has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Yelwa town, and the government has, in addition, ordered the security personnel to shoot on sight anybody or group found fomenting trouble, as well as the immediate dismantling of all illegal roadblocks mounted by the militia. The security personnel are there, and they have taken control,? Mr. Abdusalami said.

Police also are trying to assess the death toll from the latest attack, which took place late Sunday and early Monday. One officer said the death toll of 80 announced on Tuesday underestimates the number of casualties.

Muslim Nigerian leaders say they believe more than 200 people were killed in the recent violence, and more than 100 others are still missing.

They called it mass murder, and accused local authorities of organizing militia fighters, while withdrawing police from the area before they stormed the town. Authorities deny this.

Hausa fighters burned churches and killed nearly 100 people in a Tarok village several weeks ago.

Violence first erupted in the region three months ago. The predominantly Christian Tarok farmers consider the mostly Muslim Hausa cattle herders as outsiders, and accuse them of stealing land and trying to usurp political power.

Violence, which left 1,000 people dead in one week of fighting in the state capital Jos in 2001, was also linked to ethnic and religious rivalry.