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Religious Violence in Nigerian City Spreads

Residents of Nigeria's city of Jos say attacks are continuing for a fourth day in parts of the state previously unaffected despite the imposition of a 24-hour curfew and the deployment of soldiers.

Incidents of violence are still being reported in the volatile city amid reports that clashes between gangs of Muslim Hausas and mostly Christian Beroms have now spread beyond Jos to neighboring towns and other parts of Plateau state.

A newspaper reporter based in Jos, Jude Owuamanam, said security forces have so far failed to control the violence outside the city. He described the current situation as one of total anarchy.

"Total anarchy, total breakdown of law and order. It appears that the crisis has overwhelmed the security men. They never contemplated the level. The feedback we are getting is that though it has been contained in some areas where it first started it is resurging in other areas. And when it gets to local government areas it is worse because soldiers don't get there early and quickly," said Owuamanam.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says more than 200 people have been killed in three days of violence. So far, Nigerian officials have confirmed only the death of 60 people.

The government imposed a 24-hour curfew and ordered troops to act swiftly to stop the fighting. Top police and military commanders are all in Jos to direct security operations in the troubled city.

A senator representing Plateau state in the National Assembly, John Shagaya, is appealing to community and religious leaders in the area to intervene.

"We commend the efforts of state and the security agencies for efforts that are being carried out so far to isolate the crisis within Jos North and to limit damages to properties and of course human lives," he said. "We are appealing to leaders, especially community leaders, religious leaders, elder statesmen within the state to cooperate with government and of course the security agencies to ensure that the situation is brought under control," he said.

Jos has seen at least four major outbursts of religious violence since 2001. The tensions in Plateau state have their roots in decades of resentment by indigenous minority groups, mostly Christian or animist, toward migrants and settlers from Nigeria's Hausa-speaking Muslim north.

Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa with 140 million people, is divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a largely Christian south.