News / Africa

Nigerian Police Dispatched to Jos in Effort to Control Violence

Bystanders gather around a burned car outside the Victory Baptist Church in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
Bystanders gather around a burned car outside the Victory Baptist Church in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
Anne Look

Nigerian authorities have deployed additional armed riot police to the city of Jos, where clashes broke out Sunday, two days after bombings that killed 32 people. Authorities say the situation is under control and government officials are calling for calm.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned separate attacks in central and northeastern Nigeria that killed at least 38 people over the holiday weekend.

A series of explosions Friday killed 32 people and wounded 74 in Jos located in the central region of the country. Many victims were doing last-minute Christmas shopping.  

Jos resident Paddy Obodoeze says he heard the explosions. He says he came out and saw a blast that killed nine people very close to his house.

The bombings sparked clashes between armed Christian and Muslim groups in Jos Sunday morning. Security forces were patrolling the area to contain the violence and disperse crowds.

Visiting Jos Sunday, Deputy Inspector General of Police Abubukar Audu said four mobile police units were deployed from surrounding states and the situation had stabilized.  

"So far, the situation is relatively calm, I mean, has been brought under control," he said.

Audu said he had not heard reports of anyone being killed in Sunday's unrest.

Jos is the capital of Plateau State in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt, a region where the mostly Muslim north meets the mainly Christian south. Clashes between religious and ethnic groups in Jos and surrounding villages have killed hundreds of people in recent years.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged Saturday to hunt down those responsible for Friday's bombings.

Authorities said the attacks were politically motivated and aimed at sparking violence between Christians and Muslims that would disrupt preparations for April's presidential poll.

Plateau State Information Commissioner Gregory Yenlong said the atmosphere remained tense after Friday's bombings.  

"Enemies of the state are at work. People who don't wish us well are at work," Yenlong said. "People who feel that they are losing out in the scheme of things politically are at work. That is my candid opinion about what happened yesterday, and to the early hours of this morning. We expect drastic measures to be put in place, or else you can see how charged the atmosphere is."  

Plateau state's governor is calling on the federal government to strengthen security and capture those responsible for the bombings.

President Jonathan is trying to solidify national support before next month's primary in the ruling PDP party and some fear his rivals may try to exploit any unrest.

His candidacy is considered controversial because of the ruling party's tacit north-south power-sharing agreement that says the presidency should alternate to a northerner this term.

Jonathan is from the south and only became head of state after the death earlier this year of President Umaru Yar'Adua, a northern Muslim for whom Jonathan served as vice president.

On Christmas Eve, six people were also killed in northeastern Nigeria during attacks on two Christian churches, sparking condemnation from Pope Benedict XVI. Authorities are blaming members of the radical Muslim sect Boko Haram, which launched an uprising last year.

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