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Quietly, the Christian-Muslim killing continues in Nigeria

Access to power and lucrative oil contacts are driving a rise in Christian-Muslim clashes and killings. Nigeria's heavy military presence is not enough to quell violence that plagues the No. 3 supplier of oil to the US.

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The figures for the March massacre, in which mostly Christians were killed, range from 150 to 450.

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Similar uncertainty shrouds the January massacre, in which mostly Muslims died.

"Each side inflates the figures, and then the high numbers are used to justify revenge attacks," says Henry Mang, a researcher at Jos University's Centre for Conflict Management and Peace Studies.

Ethnicity and politics also play a role

In Jos, religion is just one cause of conflict.

The fighting falls broadly along ethnic lines, with the mostly Christian Berom group against the largely Muslim Hausa and Fulani groups.

The Hausa and Fulani are officially deemed settlers in Plateau State, even though some have lived here for generations, and say that as a result they are excluded from political office.

The state government counters that the so-called settlers have been given a small number of roles and are now trying to take over.

Political office is prized throughout Nigeria – holders of such jobs can grant lucrative public contracts to their allies and access oil revenues in what is sub-Saharan Africa's biggest energy producer. "[The violence in Jos] is not about religion," says Murray Last, an anthropologist at University College in London and an expert on Nigeria. "That is just the glove that covers the hand. That hand is politics: the access to power and the access to land."

Faith-based ghettos emerging

As killings continue, and suspicion between Christians and Muslims grows, residents say the city is splitting into faith-based ghettos. Some say Berom farmers are afraid to travel to remote rural areas, missing the opportunity to plant crops during the rainy season.

In a sweltering car yard in the midday sun, Vincent Chungzi, a mechanic, fears that his missing cousin, a Christian okada driver, has become another victim.

He was last seen with a female Muslim passenger more than a month ago.

"We keep calling him, but he is not answering," says Mr. Chungzi. "His wife is crying all the time."


Christian-Muslim clashes could destabilize Africa's most populous country, which is also the No. 3 supplier of oil to the US. A spate of targeted killings by both sides shows that even a heavy troop presence isn't enough to stop the violence.