JOS, Nigeria -- Communal violence broke out in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Friday, November 28, after Muslims began attacking Christians on claims of vote-tampering, leaving hundreds dead and thousands fleeing their homes.
After officials reportedly refused to post local council election results on Thursday - prompting speculation that a party backed largely by Christians had won - Muslim gangs in the Ali Kazaure area of the city began attacking Christians, according to local residents. The resulting violence along political, ethnic and religious lines resulted in a death toll estimated to be in the hundreds, with more than 300 Muslim corpses reportedly brought to one mosque.
On Saturday, officials announced that the ruling People's Democratic Party, backed mainly by Christians, had won 16 of 17 council seats, defeating the All Nigerian Peoples Party, said to be primarily supported by Muslims.
The Muslim attacks on Christians had spread across the city shortly after it began in the Ali Kazaure area, resulting in the destruction of some Christian churches. Muslim militants burned the sanctuary of the Church of Christ in Nigeria in the Sarkin Mangu area of Jos, and its pastor has been confirmed killed.
Plateau state Information Minister Nuhu Gagara told Compass on Friday night that the Sarkin Mangu church of the Church of Christ in Nigeria--COCIN--was destroyed. Names of other destroyed churches had yet to be confirmed at press time. Several mosques also were reportedly razed.
With streets calm today, Gagara gave a preliminary death toll of 200 people, though relief organizations said the figure was at least twice that.
As early as Friday, residents in various parts of Jos told Compass by telephone that more than 100 people had died. At the University of Jos, eight Christian students were said to have died, according to a source who requested anonymity for fear of being attacked by Muslim militants.
Ishaya Pam, chief medical director of the Plateau State Specialist Hospital, told Compass by phone that security agents had deposited three dead bodies in the hospital's morgue. About 150 persons had taken refuge at the hospital, Pam added.
Additionally, authorities at the Jos University Teaching Hospital confirmed that it was treating about 50 injured persons.
Plateau Gov. Jonah David Jang said in a radio and television broadcast Friday night that the crisis was pre-planned by disgruntled elements who had schemed to manipulate religious sentiments to create instability in the state.
Gunfire heard Saturday morning died down by the end of the day as the government sent troops to quell the violence. But tensions remained high on Sunday as authorities had extended a curfew on residents of several districts of the city, with military guards ordered to shoot on sight.
On Friday, Samson Wudeh, police commissioner of the Plateau State Command, told journalists in Jos that police had arrested at least 200 persons in connection with the religious crisis, and by the end of the weekend state officials said that 500 people had been arrested.
There was fear that the rioting could lead to a repeat of the violence that hit Jos on September 7,, 2001, which resulted in more than four years of bloodshed, killings of thousands of people and displacing thousands of others.
In 2004 an estimated 700 people died in Plateau state during Christian-Muslim clashes. Located in Nigeria's central region between the Muslim-majority north and the largely Christian south, the state is home various Christian ethnic groups co-existing uneasily with Muslim Hausa settlers.