By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Some 500 suspects remained detained Thursday, December 11, for their alleged involvement in rioting sparked by Muslim attacks on Christians, that left at least six pastors dead and some 500 others killed.
The Plateau State government said in statements to Nigerian media it set up a committee to arraign in court the suspects for their involvement in the November 28-29 civil unrest in the state capital Jos, which also saw the destruction of dozens of churches.
More than 25,000 persons have reportedly been displaced in the two days of violence, and aid agencies are struggling to provide help and to bury the dead.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said it has even requested the Nigerian Air Force to help fly the remains of at least three victims, all members of a youth group. “The corpses of members of the National Youth Service Corps who lost their lives during the crisis…will be conveyed to their Families in Lagos and Ibadan.”
NEMA said Thursday, December 11, that it also continues to “provide relief materials and other assistance to [the thousands of] internally displaced persons at their various camps in Jos.”
Some of the relief materials being distributed by NEMA include “bags of rice, beans, blankets, mats, cooking oils, towels, soap, plastic cutleries, hand gloves, cooking items and disinfectants,” the organization said.
The clashes in Jos, more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) north of Nigeria’s largest city Lagos, underscored the tensions in the area, located in Nigeria’s ‘middle belt’ between the mostly Christian south and Muslim north of Africa’s most populous nation, Western observers said. Its diverse population had lived in relative peace until religious riots in 2001 left 1,000 dead.
What began last month as outrage over suspected vote fraud in local elections quickly hit the religious fault line, Christians said, as angry Muslims reportedly took aim at Christian sites such as churches, rather than at political targets.
Witnesses reported that Muslim militants shot, slashed or stabbed to death most of over 100 Christians killed. Among Christians killed was Joseph Yari of the Evangelical Church of West Africa, several news reports said. Local churches said Yari was shot and killed while helping other Christians who repelled Muslim fanatics bent on burning down his church building.
Several other Christians were also shot, witnesses said.
Muslims comprise roughly half of the Nigeria’s population, while Christians of various denominations account for about 40 percent, according to estimates. Christians officials fear more violence, despite announcement by authorities they will attempt to halt the attacks and prosecute those responsible.
“The apparently pre-planned anti-Christian violence” is not a single incident, but “part of a pattern of repeated rioting in Nigeria, usually started by Muslims against Christians,” explained the International Director of Barnabas Fund, an international advocacy group supporting Christians in mainly Muslim areas.
However he has said that local Christians were to blame as well, with reports that hundreds of Muslims also died. “It is tragic when Christians respond with violence, as seems to have happened this time.”