1 Dec 2008

Death toll in Nigeria rises, army restores calm

11:10 am on 1 December 2008

Residents took more bodies to the main mosque in the Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, bringing the death toll from two days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs to about 400 people.

Rival ethnic and religious gangs have burned homes, shops, mosques and churches in fighting triggered by a disputed local election, in the country's worst unrest for years.

Murtala Sani Hashim, who has been registering the dead as they are brought to the mosque, told Reuters he had listed 367 bodies.

A doctor at one of main city hospitals said he had received 25 corpses and 154 injured since the unrest began.

"Gunshot wounds, machete injuries, those are the two main types," Dr Aboi Madaki of the Jos University Teaching Hospital told Reuters.

Nuhu Gagara, Plateau state information chief, said official police figures indicated that around 200 people had been killed but information was still being collated.

Soldiers patrolled the city of Jos on foot and in jeeps to enforce a 24-hour curfew on the worst-hit neighbourhoods. The city was calm but tense, and people who ventured out in some areas walked with their hands in the air to show they were unarmed.

Overturned and burnt-out vehicles littered the streets while several churches, a block of houses and an Islamic school in one neighbourhood were gutted by fire.

The Red Cross said around 7,000 people had fled their homes and were sheltering in government buildings, an army barracks and religious centres. A senior police official said five neighbourhoods had been hit by unrest and 523 people detained.

The latest clashes between gangs of Muslim Hausas and mostly Christian youths began early on Friday. They were provoked by a disputed local election after news spread that the candidate backed by Hausas had lost the race to the mostly Christian-backed ruling party.