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Security forces patrol Nigerian city after unrest

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KANO, Nigeria — Troops and police patrolled the flashpoint Nigerian city of Jos after weekend clashes between Christians and Muslims left 26 people dead and hundreds injured, officials and a religious leader said.

Security forces were sent in to quell the fighting and impose a curfew in the central city, where hundreds of people were killed in religious clashes last year.

The latest unrest erupted early Sunday when Christian youths protested the building of a mosque in a Christian-majority area of the city, Nigeria’s 10th-largest with a population of 500,000.

Houses and vehicles were set alight in the fighting, which was contained to the Nassarawa Gwom district and sealed off by troops on Monday, residents said.

Security forces searched cars and people on the street for weapons, they said.

“Security personnel have succeeded in quelling the unrest and restoring calm in the affected area of the city,” Plateau State police spokesman Mohammed Lerema told AFP.

“We have cordoned the Nassarawa Gwom district as a strategy to prevent the violence from spilling over to other parts of the city,” he said.

The head of the city’s central mosque, Balarbe Dawud, told AFP more than 300 people had been injured in the fighting, “most of them from gun shots”.

“We have received 16 dead bodies since yesterday. Eleven of them were buried yesterday and we are conducting a funeral for the remaining five,” he said.

“So far these 16 bodies were brought from the scene of the fighting to the mosque,” he said, adding that these were in addition to ten counted at a hospital morgue on Sunday.

The Red Cross said more than 3,000 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting, and were sheltering in mosques, churches and police barracks. However, it declined to give any casualty toll.

“So far we are still compiling list of casualties and displaced people. Therefore, we don’t have an exhaustive figure to give out,” the head of the Red Cross in Jos, Awwalu Mohammed, told AFP.

“We have also taken the injured to various hospitals in the city for treatment,” he added.

Jos is centrally situated between the Muslim-dominated north and the Christian south of Africa’s most populous country and has fast become the focus of sectarian tensions. Nigeria’s 150 million people are divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians.

State Information commissioner Gregory Yenlong said the disturbances had ended.

“I am happy to announce that peace has returned to the city following the restoration of law and order in Nassarawa Gwom by security agents,” he said.

He said the curfew would remain in force “to ensure that no security breach happens. The government calls on the people to go about their normal business without fear.”

The local university has told its students to go home.

Jos, the capital of Plateau state, and other central and northern areas have been plagued by religious violence.

In November 2008, hundreds of people were killed in Jos in two days of fighting triggered by a rumour that the mainly Muslim All Nigerian Peoples Party had lost a local election to the Christian dominated Peoples Democratic Party.

State officials put the death toll at about 200 but other sources gave a toll twice that figure.

Last month, at least 70 people were killed in clashes between security forces and members of a radical Islamist sect in the northern Bauchi State.

Another sect, Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin”, staged an insurrection in July in nearby Borno State when at least 800 people were killed as security forces crushed the unrest.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved

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