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NIGERIA - Religious violence erupts again

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Nigeria (AP):

Religious violence between Christians and Muslims erupted again yesterday in central Nigeria, and the state government called for more military units to enter the city where rioters have killed at least 27 people.

Security forces issued a 24-hour curfew after police and soldiers tried to contain the violence with roadblocks and searches but apparently failed. An Associated Press reporter could see smoke rising from the north side of Jos and could hear the sounds of gunshots echoing along the streets.

The rioting began Sunday after Muslim youths set a Catholic church ablaze. Witnesses said rioters armed with knives, homemade firearms and stones attacked passers-by and fought with security forces, leaving bodies in the street and stacked in local mosques.

The Minister of Police Affairs, Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, issued a statement yesterday blaming the violence on "some highly placed individuals in the society who were exploiting the ignorance and poverty of the people to cause mayhem in the name of religion."

Jos, the capital of Plateau State, has a history of community violence that has made elections difficult to organise. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people and Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004. More than 300 residents died during a similar uprising in 2008. Local Red Cross officials have said that 5,000 people have been displaced by the rioting.