New clashes broke out Wednesday in Nigeria's Plateau state, where Muslims and Christians have been fighting one another since Friday. Reports from Plateau state say hundreds of people may have died in the fighting.

The government says more than 50 people died in the clashes. Earlier this week, the International Red Cross officials said the tally was closer to 165. Now, newspaper reports and some relief workers in the region say that toll could be as high as 500.

The government of Nigeria - wanting to avoid fueling retribution between rival groups - has been slow to release casualty figures. The government is not commenting on reports of a mass burial that, according to a newspaper and relief officials, took place on Monday.

President Olusegun Obasanjo last Saturday authorized the deployment of troops to quell the violence. The fighting stopped on Tuesday and residents have begun to clear debris and bodies from the streets.

On Wednesday, new skirmishes broke out in the state capital, Jos, with witnesses reporting heavy gunfire for a period of about six hours.

Reporters at the scene saw bodies, once again, littering the streets. Witnesses in Jos say that at least 10 people were killed in the flare-up Wednesday.

The fighting began September 7, after a Christian woman crossed a barricade near a mosque in Jos. A skirmish escalated to fighting across the city. Muslims and Christians attacked each other in the streets using guns, clubs, and machetes, and set fire to cars and buildings, including places of worship.

Tensions have been rising between Christian natives of Plateau state and Muslims who have moved in from surrounding states. Animosity flared over the past month when the government appointed a Muslim to head a local poverty alleviation program.