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Nigerian President Declares State of Emergency - 2004-05-18

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has declared a state of emergency in Plateau State and put a retired army general in charge, following communal violence that claimed hundreds of lives.

The declaration will give the Nigerian federal government control over the state that has endured years of ethnic fighting. Speaking on state radio, President Obasanjo said it was time to end what he called near mutual genocide. He accused the elected governor, Joshua Dariye, of incompetence, which the president said encouraged the fighting.

President Obasanjo appointed retired General Chris Ali to replace the governor.

The recent violence in Plateau State in central Nigeria started on May 2, when a Christian militia group attacked and killed hundreds of Muslims in the town of Yelwa. Muslims retaliated last week killing many Christians, perhaps hundreds.

According to a spokesman for the International Red Cross in Nigeria, Jean-Jacques Tshamala, it was difficult to assess the numbers affected by the most recent attacks because many people fled from the violence.

?After these attacks, people have fled from Yelwa to another state,? he noted. ?They were internally displaced. They were wounded. It is very difficult to say how many they are now, but we know, with our medical material, they can treat almost 500 persons.?

Mr. Tshamala added that many of the wounded fled to neighboring Nassarawa State.

Clashes between Muslims and Christians in the central and northern states of Nigeria have led to the deaths of more than 10,000 people since 1999.