'Nearly 200' die in fresh Nigeria religious clashes

Jos, Nigeria - Nearly 200 people have been killed in fresh religious clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Nigerian city of Jos, a senior Muslim cleric and paramedic said.

State authorities placed the city under a 24-hour curfew and terrified residents reported hearing gunshots and seeing smoke billowing from parts of the city, the capital of Plateau State in central Nigeria.

The bodies of the most of the dead were being brought in to the city's central mosque, according to its head Balarabe Dawud.

"We received 156 dead bodies this morning and another 36 this afternoon, in total we have 192 dead bodies," Dawud said.

He said at least 800 people had been wounded in the clashes, 90 of whom had been evacuated to military hospitals with serious injuries.

Fighting had spread to Bukuru town on the outskirts of Jos by late afternoon, killing at least three people, paramedic Maryam Mohammed said at a clinic there.

"So far we have three dead and 39 injured," he said.

Dawud, the imam, said the Jos central mosque was attending to those with minor injuries, but had run out of medical supplies.

"Even neighbourhood private clinics are full with the injured. Normally these are the places we would have gone to for supplies, but they are also in need of them," he said.

An employee of the mosque, Mohammed Shittu, told AFP earlier that "the mosque is full with the injured and the dead," adding that 156 bodies had been taken to the mosque on Tuesday morning.

Authorities said a curfew put in place at the weekend had been extended.

"The government has placed a 24-hour curfew on Jos and Bukuru following the resumption of violence in parts of the city," the state's information commissioner Gregory Yenlong told AFP.

"All residents are hereby directed to stay indoors as security agents work towards restoring peace," said Yenlong.

All flights to the city were suspended Tuesday, airport and airline sources said.

David Maiyaki, a Christian resident of Dutse Uku area of Jos where the latest fighting erupted overnight, said the curfew did not yet seem to have taken effect and "fighting is continuing unabated".

"We woke up to new fighting this morning. As I am talking to you we are indoors, but there is burning and gunshots all around us," David Maiyaki told AFP by phone.

Ibrahim Mudi, a resident of Sabon Fegi suburb, said: "From here I can hear gunshots and see burning buildings from a neighbourhood in the northern part of the city."

"It seems that Jos north is completely on fire," added Mudi, who spoke by phone from his veranda.

Mohammed Ahmad from the Unguwarrogo area said the city "is enveloped in smoke and gunshots have filled the air".

"It's quite terrifying. We are indoors but we don't feel safe. It's like any moment something is going to happen to us," said Ahmad.

Sunday's fighting had been confined to the predominantly Christian Nassarawa Gwon area but has since spread to other parts of the city, the army said.

"It is not concentrated, it is not limited to one area, it is scattered," army spokesman Colonel Galadima Shekari told AFP.

Fighting first erupted when Christian youths protested the building of a mosque in a Christian-majority area of Nigeria's 10th-largest city. Houses and vehicles were set ablaze.

Sunday's clashes killed at least 26 people, according to Muslim leaders. The Red Cross said more than 100 people were seriously injured in that fighting and that it was struggling to cope with around 3,000 displaced people.

State authorities said on Monday that calm had returned and urged people to go about their daily activities as normal after hundreds of troops and police had been drafted in to impose order and a 12-hour dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The curfew was extended following the latest clashes.

Jos, situated between the Muslim-dominated north and the Christian south, has in recent years been a hotbed of religious violence in Nigeria, whose 150 million people are divided almost equally between followers of the two faiths.

In November 2008, hundreds of people were killed in two days of fighting in the city triggered by a rumour that the mainly Muslim All Nigerian Peoples Party had lost a local election to the Christian dominated People's Democratic Party.

At least 800 people were killed in Borno State last July when security forces put down an insurrection by a Muslim fundamentalist sect. In December, around 70 were killed in clashes between security forces and members of another radical sect in Bauchi State.