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Nigeria Troops Ordered to Stop Clashes - 2001-09-08

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered troops to the country's central Plateau state following the outbreak of street clashes between Muslims and Christians. The fighting has left a number of buildings destroyed in the state capital city of Jos, where the acting state governor has imposed a nighttime curfew.

The fighting is the result of tension between Christian natives who make up a majority in the state and Muslims settlers from bordering states who are seen as newcomers.

The clashes erupted on Friday after Muslim prayers. Witnesses say bands of youths barricaded streets and set a number of buildings on fire. Buildings destroyed include at least two churches. Reports from Jos also say a mosque was burned. The reports have not been independently confirmed.

Witnesses say the fighting has been intense, as youths attacked each other with machetes and sticks.

Plateau state is a mostly Christian enclave surrounded by states that are predominantly Muslim, including some where the strict Islamic code known as Sharia has lately been adopted.

Many Muslims have recently migrated into Plateau state, causing tension between them and Christians who are indigenous to the area.

The fighting on Friday and Saturday pitted indigenous Christians against Hausa-speaking Muslims. It is not clear exactly what set off the clashes.

There has been friction in the state between Christians and Muslims after a Muslim Hausa was appointed to a top post in Nigeria's National Poverty Eradication Program.

Some in Plateau state have interpreted the action as a sign that the government is favoring Hausas.