Nigeria sends army to control sectarian violence in Jos

In the central Nigerian city of Jos, at least 260 people have reportedly died during fighting between Christians and Muslims.

By , Correspondent

The Nigerian government is putting the security of the city of Jos in the hands of its military after several days of sectarian violence that left several hundred dead and thousands injured.

BBC News reports that Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan made the announcement yesterday that he was sending the army in to prevent further fighting between Christian and Muslims in Jos.

At least 65 Christians and 200 Muslims are believed to have died in religious rioting in Jos in recent days. Mr Jonathan said the situation in Jos is under control and those responsible would be brought to justice. A BBC reporter in the region says the easing of a 24-hour curfew has allowed religious leaders to organise burials.
The BBC also has posted a slideshow of the aftermath of the fighting in Jos.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that the death toll is being revised upward as authorities in Jos and the surrounding towns are able to better assess the situation. Although there has been no official death toll announced, religious leaders and medical workers told AFP that they had counted more than 300 dead. International Red Cross officials said that some 18,000 people fled their homes during the violence.

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Bloomberg reports that it is still unclear what exactly triggered the violence in Jos, which is located in central Nigeria (see map). The city lies between the predominantly Muslim north and predominantly Catholic south, and has struggled with sectarian violence over the last decade.

Some reports blame a dispute over the rebuilding of a house destroyed in a clash more than a year ago, while the city’s police commissioner, Greg Anyating, said it was the result of an attack by Muslims on Christians in a church, according to Human Rights Watch. ...
“This is not the first outbreak of deadly violence in Jos, but the government has shockingly failed to hold anyone accountable,” Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said....

Voice of America cites similar criticism from James Manager, a member of the Nigerian senate, who said that the government has failed to adopt the lessons learned from past violence. "Here is a country where commissions have been set up everyday about crises but no results arising from the implementation of those commissions," he said.

The Catholic News Agency writes that Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos, worried that careless media reports were inflaming the violence, which he argued was spurred less by religion than by the social, political, and ethnic problems facing Nigerians.

Criticizing the Nigerian government, he said the government fails to provide any form of social security. Many young people feel they have no future and there is no employment. Being frustrated, they often turn to violence and this violence is often exploited by political and religious leaders. ... The archbishop called on the government to make Nigeria “a better country,” to develop the potential of the people and to provide security for them.
According to [international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need], he also emphasized that the Church must continue to pursue dialogue with Islam, since it is an alternative to conflict. To increase social harmony among young people, he advocated projects in which young Christians and Muslims learn and work together.

The crisis in Jos is further complicated by the absence of Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua, who has been in a Saudi Arabian hospital since late November. Mr. Yar'Adua did not name his vice president, Mr. Jonathan, as acting president when Yar'Adua left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia, which has hampered Jonathan's ability to keep the government operating. But Jonathan received backing last week from a Nigerian Federal High Court, Nigerian newspaper This Day reported, which ruled that he was allowed to exercise presidential authority in Yar'Adua's absence.

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