Tags: bodies | Nigeria | clashes | religious

Bodies Pile Up After Nigeria Religious Clashes

Friday, 22 January 2010 11:27 AM

KURU KARAMA, Nigeria — Volunteers recovered scores more bodies in Nigeria's troubled central Plateau state as the death toll from inter-religious clashes rose and the army was ordered to step up security.

The bodies were picked up from streets, houses and open water wells in Kuru Karama, a village some 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of state capital Jos, the epicentre of four days of Muslim-Christian clashes.

Many of the victims had been thrown into wells in the outlying village, the leader of a Muslim aid team said.

"So far we have retrieved 62 bodies but many more are still in the wells and I?m afraid we may have to sand-fill them because the bodies have decomposed so bad that the flesh disintegrates when we try to bring them out," Ibrahim Tanimu told AFP as his team piled the bodies into waiting vans late Thursday.

Thousands of troops patrolled the streets of Jos and surrounding towns on Friday, manning checkpoints and stopping and searching vehicles.

Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan pledged in an address late Thursday that the ringleaders responsible for the violence would be brought to justice.

"The federal government is determined to secure convictions of the perpetrators of this crime, no matter how highly placed," he said.

Jonathan ordered the military to take over the security of the affected regions, as well as in neighbouring areas where reprisals were feared.

"I have today ordered the army to lead the security forces to take over the entire security of the affected areas, including those areas that are considered prone to risk," he said.

The state government has given no official death toll from the violence, which broke out on Sunday, but religious leaders and medical workers said they had counted around 300 bodies by Wednesday.

Thousands of troops had deployed in the city and by late Wednesday had relaxed a 24-hour curfew to allow people to replenish depleted food and water supplies, collect bodies and bury the dead.

Ninety-eight victims were buried in a mass grave in the central city on Thursday.

Gangs wielding guns and machetes and stoked by religious zealots began fighting in Jos on Sunday after a Christian landowner said a Muslim builder was encroaching on his land.

The violence later spread to small towns and villages on the outskirts of Jos, the capital of Plateau state.

Many people killed in the violence were hacked to death with machetes, others simply shot, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A local rights body the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) said most of the weapons used in the killings were primitive such as bows and arrows, machetes and axes.

"We have observed that primitive weapons kept in houses after the last violence in 2008, were used," said the CRC head Shehu Sani.

"Use of guns was very minimal, ...most likely by security agents in attempts to enforce peace," suggested Sani.

Jos has been a hotbed of religious violence in Nigeria, whose 150 million people are divided almost equally between followers of the two faiths. An estimated 200 people were killed in religious clashes in the city in 2008.

Jonathan, in his first broadcast to the nation since he has begun filling in for ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua, said the miltary have "the overwhelming mandate ... to arrest the situation urgently".

Life on Friday was slowly returning to normal in Jos city with an increase in human and vehicle traffic on the streets, but banks remained shut.

"Many more people are venturing out from where they are hiding," said Namadi Bello waiting in a petrol queue.

Even as calm returned, others were decided on getting out.

"I am leaving for Enugu because of the crisis," said Jude Chedeber, a medical student at Jos university.

Leaders of both faiths claim the fighting had little to do with religion but reflected the failure of the political leadership to address ethnic differences.

The Red Cross said 18,000 people had been forced to flee, many of them taking refuge in military barracks, churches and mosques around the city.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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KURU KARAMA, Nigeria — Volunteers recovered scores more bodies in Nigeria's troubled central Plateau state as the death toll from inter-religious clashes rose and the army was ordered to step up security.
Friday, 22 January 2010 11:27 AM
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