Nigerian soldiers open fire in clash with students

A fresh round of violence in Jos also saw churches and mosques set ablaze.

Updated: Jan 30, 2011, 08:39 AM IST

Jos: Nigerian soldiers opened fire on students in central Nigeria on Saturday in a fresh round of violence that also saw churches and mosques set ablaze, officials and witnesses said.

A hospital official said 24 people were admitted with bullet wounds and one person had died, but the commander of a military task force in the region said only four students were shot and injured when soldiers fired in self-defence.

There were also unconfirmed reports of killings related to clashes between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups.

The clashes happened in the central Nigerian city of Jos, the scene of repeated attacks including the Christmas Eve bomb attacks that killed dozens.

Other incidents were reported around the city, including youths in the neighbourhood of Gada Biu stopping cars at illegal roadblocks.

Clashes first broke out late Friday after motorcycle-riding Muslim villagers stabbed three University of Jos students, according to student leader Victor Dazi.

A large number of students later mobilised and tried to march in protest towards a Muslim area before soldiers intervened, leading to a confrontation.

"The situation became worse. The students tried to overrun our men, and that was when shots were fired in self-defence and hit four of them," said Brigadier General Hassan Umaru, the commander of the task force.

Others were wounded while being dispersed, he said, without providing details.

George Chima, chief medical director of Bingham University Teaching Hospital, said: "Twenty four people were brought in with gunshot wounds but one died."

One of the wounded students, Douglas Daniel, said from his hospital bed that he had been shot in the arm by soldiers.

Women from the area joined in later protests and soldiers were shooting in the air to stop rioting, said witnesses.

Two fuel stations, a vegetable market, churches, mosques and houses were set alight, Umaru and witnesses said. A thick pall of smoke covered the area.

"People took advantage of the situation ... to burn houses and vehicles. They just burnt houses of the opposite faith -- churches and mosques included," Umaru said.

Jos is the capital of Plateau state, part of the so-called middle belt between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

The region has been hit by waves of violence in recent years that have killed scores of people, and there has been a sharp increase in clashes ahead of April elections.

Bureau Report