Nigeria

500 dead in Jos clashes, say latest estimates

Hundreds of people were injured and killed in sectarian violence in Jos in January.
Hundreds of people were injured and killed in sectarian violence in Jos in January. AFP/ Pius Utomi Ekpei

At least 500 people were killed on Sunday in clashes near Nigeria's central city of Jos, officials said on Monday. The government has ordered troops to the area and people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. Newspapers reported that Muslim residents of the villages were warned prior to the attack so they could escape the violence.

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“A massive grave has already been dug, and a burial is to take place,” correspondent Ben Shemang told RFI. “The bulldozers are on - they’re digging a really big trench.”

Plateau State governor’s advisor Dan Manjang told the AFP news agency that they had made 95 arrests. However there is still confusion over the death toll.

“I’ve just spoken with the local government chairman,” said Shemang, who’s in Dogo Nahawa, where most of the violence occurred. “He said it’s around 300 people, as opposed to what has been said.”

Manjang said it was more than 500 people, while state radio reported the same figure.

Shemang described the destruction and what was thought to be the motive.

“It’s a terrible sight - you have children, enfants, old women, old men - been hacked to death, some were shot, some were trapped in their buildings and set ablaze […] some families, not a single soul is left.”

“The victims are mainly the Berom people. They are always insisting that they are the indigenes of this area.”

“Some people are saying it is a kind of reprisal attack, bearing in mind the other attack that took place last year.”

The attacks targeted the local, predominantly Christian Berom ethnic group, and have been blamed on mainly Muslim Fulani cattle herders.

Muslim residents in the villages received text messages on their mobile phones prior to the attack, warning them to leave, according to the AFP news agency.

Survivors described how the attackers used the word for cattle in Fulani for cattle – "nage" – in order to distinguish Fulanis from Beroms during the violence. Those not understanding or responding to the Fulani word would be killed.

“Armed people, itinerant pastoralists […] called Fulani attacked the village of farmers of the Berom ethnic group,” said John Onaiyekan, the archbishop of Abuja. “It is a classic conflict between pastolists and farmers, except all the Fulani are Muslims and all the Berom are Christians,” he told Vatican Radio.

Locals said that the attacks were originally prompted by the theft of cattle.

Violence between rival ethic and religious groups in January left 326 dead in Jos, according to police, although religious and human rights activists put the overall toll at more than 550.

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