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March 07, 2010

Sectarian Violence Leaves Hundreds Dead in Nigeria

by Gilbert da Costa

Nigeria's acting President Goodluck Jonathan is due to meet with security chiefs to discuss the recent clashes involving Muslim herders and Christian villagers that killed hundreds of people near the central city of Jos.

A security meeting in Abuja is begging held as authorities in Jos bury hundreds of hacked bodies of victims, mostly women and children, in mass graves.  

A spokesman for the state government, Gregory Nianlong, says at least 500 people were slaughtered in a night raid on three villages near Jos, capital of Plateau state.  There was no independent confirmation of the figure.  

Several more victims are being treated while about 100 suspects have been arrested.

Security forces have been ordered to hunt down those behind the clashes.  Lagos-based political analyst, George Eke, says the lack of opportunities, and the extreme poverty it breeds, is responsible for the unending crises in Jos.

"A lot of these problems are caused by politicians," he said.  "Nigeria has been classified, particularly the north, has been classified as a place where al-Qaida could go and pick people to do their operations.  Why?  Because there is lack of education there.  Governments in-out, in-out, each administration, is doing nothing to lift these children up."

Clashes between rival ethnic and religious groups in January left 320 dead in Jos, according to the police.  Religious and human-rights activists put the overall toll at more than 500.

Soldiers have been deployed to the affected area, but some residents have criticized the authorities for doing nothing to prevent the bloodshed.

Sectarian violence in central Nigeria has left thousands dead over the past decade.