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13 April 2024

Religious clashes have killed 35 in Nigeria: police


Clashes between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria last week have left 35 people dead, police said on Sunday, as fresh violence flared up in the flashpoint city of Jos.

The incidents were the latest in a cycle of violence in volatile central Nigeria, where religious rioting has killed scores in recent years.

"Thirty-five people have been killed in sectarian violence in Tafawa Balewa on Thursday," Bauchi police commissioner Abdulkadir Mohammed Indabawa, told AFP.

Only last week police had reported riots that had killed four people and arson attacks that had destroyed five mosques and 50 houses.

In neighbouring Plateau state's capital of Jos meanwhile, more than a dozen people had died after clashes sparked by the stabbing Friday of university students by Muslim villagers, Muslim and Christian community leaders said.

Churches, mosques, filling stations, houses and food kiosks were set ablaze over the weekend.

On Sunday the military sent in reinforcements aided by helicopters for "aggressive patrols," according to a military spokesman, who said they had made 27 arrests.

During the violence, one policeman had been beheaded and his body burnt, he added.

Local residents reported sporadic gunfire in the morning in the worst affected neighbourhoods.

"We have so far recovered 15 bodies in different parts of the city affected by yesterday's violence," Mohammed Shitu, head of a Muslim rescue team in Jos told AFP.

Some had machete cuts, some gunshot wounds while others had been burnt, he said.

"So far now I am aware of three people killed in Ayaruje village," Sunday Gomna, a reverend with Emmanuel Baptist Church in Jos told AFP he said of the killings that day.
He would perform burial rites for the three at a ceremony on Monday, he added.

Meanwhile in a separate incident in neighbouring Bauchi, also a common site of clashes between Muslims and Christians, police said worshippers on Sunday had helped foil an attempt to bomb a church.

Bauchi State police commissioner Mohammed Abdulkadir Indabawa said an unidentified man masquerading as a worshipper dropped a laptop bag containing a remote-controlled homemade bomb in a Methodist church in Bauchi city.

Churchgoers became suspicious when the man walked out leaving the bag on a bench but failed to apprehend him as"he took to his heels and joined a motorcyclist waiting for him outside the church and escaped."

A police bomb squad defused the explosive, which was a "contraption of aluminium shreds, ammonia fertiliser and mobile-phone batteries," he said.

Suspected members of an Islamist sect Boko Haram that launched an uprising in 2009 attacked a prison in Bauchi last September, freeing more than 700 inmates.

The group also claimed responsibility for a series of Christmas Eve bomb blasts, including in churches in the central city of Jos that killed dozens.

Further north in Maiduguri, where the sect of believed to have its base, a checkpoint shootout left two suspected members of the radical sect and a policeman dead on Sunday, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar, police commissioner for Borno state, told AFP.

Plateau state, part of the so-called middle belt between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

The region has been hit by waves of violence in recent years that have killed scores of people, and there has been a sharp increase in clashes ahead of April elections.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is divided almost in half between the two faiths.