Youths kill family of 8 in restive central Nigeria

Jos, Nigeria - Muslim youths hacked a Christian family of eight to death in Nigeria's volatile Plateau state on Sunday, local officials said, continuing a week of violence that has pitted gangs from the two faiths against each other and civilians.

More than 40 people have been killed in the ethnically and religiously-mixed area since last Monday when Christian youths attacked some Muslims as they gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan in the city of Jos, capital of Plateau state.

Plateau state spokesman Yiljap Abraham took journalists to the house in the village of Tatu, where the bodies of the eight victims from the latest attack were still lying on the bloodsoaked floor.

On Sunday morning, in another village in Plateau called Riyom, police found a bomb planted in a marketplace which had failed to go off because its battery had run flat, Sergeant Willford Egwu told journalists.

Plateau state, straddling the "Middle Belt" between Nigeria's mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south, though normally peaceful, has sometimes been a flashpoint for tensions between the two faiths.

Unrest there is a new security issue for President Goodluck Jonathan, also coping with near-daily attacks in the northeast by Islamist sect Boko Haram, which authorities blame for an August 26 bombing of U.N. offices in Abuja that killed 23 people.

Suspected Boko Haram militants shot dead an outspoken Muslim cleric who had criticised the group, Lieutenant-Colonel Hassan Mohammed from Nigeria's joint military task force told Reuters. The men shot him in a raid on his home on Sunday in Maiduguri, the city at the heart of the Boko Haram insurgency.

On Saturday at least four people including one soldier were killed in clashes between local youths and security forces in the town of Biu in the northeast near Maiduguri, a senior police officer told Reuters.

"The fracas broke out on Friday night when the youth ambushed one soldier and killed him close to the Army Barracks in retaliation to the killing of a woman and the arrest of four Islamic clerics," the source said.