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At Least 120 Dead in Violence Near Nigerian City of Jos

Witnesses say at least 120 people have been killed in fighting near the volatile Nigerian city of Jos. Nigeria's acting president has ordered security forces to hunt down those behind the violence.

Residents in the village of Dogo Nahawa say unidentified gunmen raided their village before dawn Sunday, shooting in the air to draw people out of their homes before attacking them with machetes and knives.

Reporters on the scene south of the city of Jos have counted at least 100 bodies, mostly women and children. Houses were reportedly burned in similar raids on the nearby villages of Ratsat and Zot.

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan put security forces in Plateau state on high alert. A statement from the presidency says security forces there and in neighboring states are meant to prevent the violence from spreading.

More than 300 people were killed in Jos in January in the latest round of Muslim-Christian violence. Previous clashes killed at least 1,000 people in 2001, 700 people in 2004, and 200 people in 2008.

Acting President Jonathan sent troops into Jos in January to stop the violence. But that has not diminished religious tension in the volatile city, with local Muslim leaders this past week saying they found a fresh pig's head in a mosque burned during the January killing. The walls of the mosque were painted with the pig's blood.

The Attorney General of Plateau state has criticized the federal government for trying those arrested during the January violence under anti-terrorism laws, saying the matter is better dealt with locally.