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Clashes kill at least 20 in Nigerian city of Jos
Fri Nov 28, 2008 12:20pm EST
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By Shuaibu Mohammed
JOS, Nigeria (Reuters) - Clashes between rival ethnic and religious groups in the central Nigerian city of Jos killed at least 20 people on Friday, injured hundreds more and forces thousands from their homes, the Red Cross said.
Authorities imposed a night-time curfew on the capital of the central Plateau state and soldiers deployed on the streets after rival gangs burned churches, mosques and homes in a dispute triggered by a local election.
The unrest is the most serious of its kind in Africa's most populous nation, roughly equally split between Christians and Muslims, since President Umaru Yar'Adua took power in May 2007.
"Over 20 people died. Churches and mosques and 100 houses were burned down," a senior Red Cross official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. He said more than 300 people were injured.
Youths with machetes hacked to death a policeman and burned tires in one part of the city, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air, witnesses said.
"All law-abiding citizens are assured that government is on top of the situation and should go about their normal lives," Jonah Jang, governor of Plateau state of which Jos is the capital, said in a broadcast.
"Government is imposing a curfew in Jos ... and the environs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (1700-0500 GMT). Government wishes to advise against any further attempt to test its will to maintain peace on the Plateau," he said.
The violence was triggered by a disputed vote for a new local government chairman in Jos North, the commercial center of Plateau state.
Residents said demonstrators from the Hausa ethnic group began protesting in the early hours of Friday after a rumor spread that their ANPP party candidate had lost the race to the ruling PDP party.
"The group said they were not fighting people but fighting government because of their action," said one witness, who asked not to be named.
Christians and Muslims generally live peacefully side by side in Africa's top oil producer, a country of 140 million people. But hostility has simmered in the past in Plateau state.
Hundreds were killed in ethnic-religious street fighting in Jos in 2001. Three years later, hundreds more died in clashes in the town of Yelwa, leading then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew.
The tensions in Plateau state have their roots in decades of resentment by indigenous minority groups, who are mostly Christian or animist, toward migrants and settlers from Nigeria's Hausa-speaking Muslim north.
The official results of Thursday's vote have not yet been announced but ANPP observers at polling stations had forecast a clear win for their candidate. Continued...
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