- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

LAGOS, Nigeria — President Olusegun Obasanjo called out the army yesterday to combat Muslim-Christian violence raging in Jos, a northern Nigerian city, where terrified residents told of churches and homes burned and bodies piling up in the streets.
Authorities imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew to quell the fighting, which erupted Friday night at the time of Muslim prayers some said, when a Christian woman angered Muslims by trying to cross a street where Muslim men were praying.
There was no clear word on the death toll so far in Jos, a hilltop city of 4 million some 620 miles northeast of Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos.
But residents cowering in homes with their families yesterday spoke of seeing dozens dead and the bloodletting continuing.
"It just started raining so I looked outside, and saw three corpses lying in front of my house," one woman, Susan Akele, told the Associated Press by telephone. "This is hell."
Mr. Obasanjo authorized deployment of the army and went on state radio to appeal to religious and community leaders to calm their followers.
"I wonder what sort of Muslims and Christians start burning churches and mosques —places where God is worshipped," Mr. Obasanjo said.
"True believers in God cannot start killing other human beings."
The explosion of violence is the latest since the introduction of sharia, or Islamic law, in several northern states last year sparked bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims. Hundreds have died.
Nigeria, with 120 million people, is Africa's most populous nation. It is divided into predominantly Christian south and overwhelmingly Muslim north.
Northerners dominate Nigeria's military, and wielded immense power during the 15 years of army rule, which ended in 1999 with Mr. Obasanjo's election.
Jos, whose government leaders are mainly Christian, has rejected the possibility of implementing sharia. Until now, the city had largely been spared religious and ethnic violence that has periodically wracked other parts of Nigeria.
Ethnicity also played a role in the battles.
Large numbers of fighters on the Christian side were members of the Berom tribe, a group native to Jos. Fulanis and Hausas two of Nigeria's largest groups — made up a large proportion of the Muslim combatants.
Some accounts said the confrontation on the street outside a mosque sparked the conflict — an argument at first, escalating into armed clashes between young Muslims and Christians.
Jos state Deputy Gov. Michael Bomang imposed a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew Friday night in an effort to prevent further violence. The curfew was later rolled forward to begin at 4 p.m. Speaking on state radio and television, Mr. Bomang called soldiers and police into the streets.
Two churches —an Assemblies of God and Church of Christ were burned during the rampage Friday in the mostly Muslim middle-class neighborhood of Kwararafa, the Lagos newspaper This Day reported.


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