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At least 15 killed in violence around Nigeria's Jos town

posted 31 Jan 2011, 10:11 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 31 Jan 2011, 10:13 ]

At least 15 people were killed in weekend violence around Nigeria's central town of Jos, police have said.

Youths dragged people from their cars and murdered them at illegal roadblocks in central Nigeria over the weekend (January 29-30), while rioters burned fuel stations and homes in the latest clashes between Christian and Muslim gangs.

Youths from the mostly Christian Berom ethnic group set up the roadblocks on Saturday (January 29) at Gada Biu, on the edge of the city of Jos, stopping vehicles and pulling out people they believed to be Muslims, witnesses said.

One witness, who asked not to be named, said he had counted 15 bodies, although the security forces could not confirm this.

The latest burst of violence in Plateau state, where an estimated 200 people have been killed in ethnic and religious clashes over the past month, was triggered when Muslim youths attended a burial ceremony near a Christian village on Friday (January 28).

Soldiers opened fire to try to quell fighting that ensued between rival mobs of students.

Reports on Saturday that some of the students had died in hospital triggered rioting, with youths setting up the roadblocks and protesters burning two fuel stations, a college and vehicles in the Farin Gada area of Jos, police said.

There have been almost daily clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs in villages around Jos, the capital of Plateau state, since a series of bombs were detonated during Christmas Eve celebrations a month ago, killing scores of people.

The tension in central Nigeria's "Middle Belt" is rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with migrants and settlers from the Muslim north.