Nigeria: Homes set ablaze in violence-torn region

Police officers and soldiers struggled to keep the violence under control.

Jos: Rioters set homes ablaze and angry youths armed with machetes set up roadblocks on Sunday throughout a central Nigerian city plagued by violence between Christians and Muslims, witnesses said.

Witnesses heard gunshots and saw smoke rising on Sunday afternoon from a southern neighbourhood in the city of Jos, where more than 500 people died last year.

The latest rioting comes after 11 people died on Saturday around Jos from religious violence and a political rally gone awry.

Meanwhile, police in a city in northeast Nigeria are investigating a mass shooting at an illicit beer garden that left eight people dead and four others wounded.

In Jos, families hid inside homes or wherever they could find shelter from the violence on Sunday. Local lawyer Kwampkur Samuel Bondip said he was trapped inside a church with his family after Muslim youths blocked the road and began attacking passers-by.

Danlami Mohammed, an official with a local Muslim organisation, said the youths began rioting after finding arsonists had burned homes in their neighbourhood overnight.

Police officers and soldiers struggled to keep the violence under control.

"We have deployed our men to control the situation," said Plateau state police commissioner Abdurrahman Akano.

Sunday`s violence appeared to be a reaction to other attacks over the weekend. Christian youths attacked a car full of Muslims returning from a wedding in central Nigeria on Friday night, killing seven people inside the vehicle and sparking retaliatory violence that left one other person dead, an official said on Saturday. Another three people were killed and several others were wounded when a meeting of a political party aligned with former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari collapsed into violence, witnesses said.

Nigeria, an oil-rich country of 150 million people, is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. Jos is in the nation`s "middle belt”, where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands.

The Jos violence, though fractured across religious lines, often has more to do with local politics, economics and rights to grazing lands. The government of Plateau state, where Jos is the capital, is controlled by Christian politicians who have blocked Muslims from being legally recognised as citizens. That has locked many out of prised government jobs in a region where the tourism industry and tin mining have collapsed in the last decades.

Bureau Report

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