Over 200 people have been killed in violence in the Nigerian city of Jos. The attacks are rumoured to be reprisals for attacks that left several hundred people dead in January.
The violence, carried out with machetes and machine guns, has occurred between Muslim and Christian sections of the Nigerian population, although most analysts believe that the causes are political and economic, rather than sectarian.
One resident of Dogo Nahawa, one of the Christian villages attacked, said: “They came around three o’clock in the morning and started shooting into the air. The shooting was meant to draw people from their houses and then, when people came out, they started cutting them with machetes.”
The attack are alleged to have been perpetrated by Fulani Muslims, and have been linked by many to the attacks on Fulani villages by Borom Christians in January.
Mark Lipdo, a member of Christian Aid group in the area, said: “We saw mainly those who are helpless, like small children and then the older men, who cannot run, these were the ones that were slaughtered.”
Marches involving hundreds of women in long black dresses have been held in Jos to protest against the violence.
Father Anthony Fom, Chairman of the Jos operations of Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic charity, said: “People are living in constant fear. They are afraid to sleep in their houses. Many hide in the mountains. The violence needs to be ended for good.”
An example of this fear manifesting itself involved a few cows that were transported into Christian areas of Jos. Rumours spread that a truck carrying cows also contained Fulani men, who had come to infiltrate the area and attack after nightfall. Local youths gathered around the truck, demanding that they be shown the Fulanis. The police attempted to resolve the situation, however this failed and they had to call in the army. A small riot ensued, with youths throwing stones at the army, at which point shots were fired and several people were injured.
Nigerian senators have set up a 20-man committee to look into the violence, and the best way to dispel the problems experienced in Jos.
Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, has released a statement condemning the violence. Regardless, tensions look set to continue. Both regional and religious differences need to be settled before Nigeria detriorates into a state of civil war.