Clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs erupted again on Tuesday in the central Nigerian city of Jos, forcing the authorities to impose a 24-hour curfew on the city.
Residents reached by telephone told VOA the violence had spread to Bukuru, a neighboring community. They said they heard gunshots and saw smoke billowing from several parts of the city, particularly in north Jos where the fighting has been most intense.
Security forces have ordered everyone to remain indoors after efforts to contain the violence failed. The curfew announcement is being relayed repeatedly over local radio. Soldiers have deployed tanks and armored personnel carriers in a bid to contain the violence.
Rioting first broke out on Sunday after Christian youths protested the building of a mosque in a Christian-controlled area of the city which has a population of 500,000. Houses and cars were set ablaze after Muslim youths attacked a Catholic church. Calm returned to the city on Monday.
Jos has a history of community and religious violence. The director-general of Jos-based National Institute for Strategic Studies, Dan Fulani Ahmed, blamed what he called competition for power for the recurring violence Jos, the capital of Plateau state.
"Jos is a state where different interests, different nationalities came together to form a vibrant state. You cannot rule out the issues of competition for power. To me, it is a competition for power among different groups. It's purely issues of poverty, power and religion," he said.
Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1000 people. Another Muslim and Christian conflict killed up to 700 people in 2004. More than 300 residents died during a similar uprising in 2008.
Security sources say more than 50 people may have been killed since Sunday when clashes started. Red Cross officials say 5,000 people have been displaced by the rioting.
The clashes come at a time the government in Abuja is under criticism over a perceived lack of leadership, given the continued absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua.