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More than 300 dead in Nigeria rioting

The violence began as political clashes after a local election in the town of Jos.

November 30, 2008|Associated Press

JOS, NIGERIA — Mobs burned homes, churches and mosques Saturday in a second day of riots, as the death toll rose to more than 300 in the worst sectarian violence in Africa's most populous nation in years.

Sheik Khalid Abubakar, the imam at the city's main mosque, said more than 300 bodies were brought there Saturday and 183 more were outside the building, waiting for burial.

Those killed in the Christian community probably would not be taken to the mosque, raising the possibility that the death toll could be much higher. The city morgue wasn't immediately accessible Saturday.

Police spokesman Bala Kassim said there were "many dead," but couldn't cite a number.

Jos, the capital of Plateau state, has a long history of community violence. The city is situated in Nigeria's "middle belt," where members of hundreds of ethnic groups commingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

Authorities imposed an around-the-clock curfew in the hardest-hit areas of the central Nigerian city.

The fighting began as clashes between supporters of the region's two main political parties after the first local election in Jos in more than a decade.

Mobs gathered Thursday in Jos after electoral workers failed to publicly post results, prompting many onlookers to assume that the vote was the latest in a long line of fraudulent Nigerian elections.

Riots flared Friday morning and at least 15 people were killed.

Local ethnic and religious leaders made radio appeals for calm on Saturday, and streets were mostly empty by early afternoon. Troops were given orders to shoot rioters on sight.

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