By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
JOS, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– The Christian community in Nigeria’s central Plateau state are anxiously awaiting the arrival of some 1,300 additional riot police following weeks of sectarian violence that reportedly killed as many as 100 Christians.
In a statement monitored by BosNewsLife Thursday, September 22, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said he ordered the country’s defense chief to “take all necessary actions” to stop a new round of unrest between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Jonathan’s order came after two explosions hit the state’s capital Jos late Sunday, September 18, although there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Entire Christian families were among those killed in the latest outbreak of violence.
Locals said the clashes began last month when armed youth of a Christian neighborhood allegedly assaulted Muslims marking the end of Ramadan. Some residents said religious ‘Christians’ wanted to take revenge for a string of bombs that exploded in Jos on Christmas Eve last year.
The Islamic militant group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, claimed responsibility for these multiple bomb blasts in Jos that killed 80 people. It also carried out a series of attacks against churches and other targets as part of its attempt to establish Islamic rule in northern Nigeria.
Christians and rights activists said last month’s incident sparked numerous reprisal attacks by angry Muslims in Plateau state and other areas.
Nigerian soldiers and riot police have also been drafted to Bitaro Village in southern Kaduna State following an armed attack there last weekend, that killed at least four people and injuring 10 others, reported advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Among recent attacks Muslim extremists attacked Tsohon Foron village, killing 10 Christians, all members of the family of Danjuma Gyang Tsok, officials and Christians said.
A day later, Muslims allegedly killed over a dozen Christians, including a pregnant woman, in the Christian community of Christian community of Vwang Kogot on September 9.
Additionally On September 10 Muslim attackers reportedly stormed Vwang Fwil village and killing 13 Christians.
Christians said ethnic Fulani, who are primarily Muslim nomads, seem to have been enlisted by other militant Muslims to attack Christian communities due to their understanding of the terrain of rural communities.
There has been continuing tension in Kaduna State since April, when hundreds were killed and thousands displaced in deadly post-election violence that observers said was initiated by supporters of an unsuccessful presidential candidate.
CSW investigators said they noted tensions and heightened security, even in state capital Kaduna City, where they found 63 displaced families from four villages destroyed during the April violence.
They were seen living “in squalid conditions where they lacked adequate food and water and were under threat of eviction,” CSW added.
“In every area visited, survivors of the April violence consistently described extensive looting occurring prior to the torching of their properties, and the deliberate targeting of church leaders and church-owned buildings,” the group said.
Also, “In northern Kaduna, where 85 homes were destroyed, 22 churches razed and five girls raped, victims reported their attackers had been bussed in from elsewhere…Several local Muslims hid Christians in their homes and assisted in dousing some of the fires,” CSW explained in a statement.
CSW’s Special Ambassador Stuart Windsor told BosNewsLife he was concerned about “the phenomenon of night time raids, which has already claimed lives in villages in Bauchi and most recently in Plateau State” and “is now occurring in Kaduna.”
He said his group has urged authorities to ensure security forces will take “effective measures to bring a definitive end to the night-time raids on villages, which have claimed the lives of entire families, including women and children, in neighboring states over the last year.”
The renewed violence is seen as a major challenge to President Jonathan’s administration.
He only took office at the end of May in elections, which international observers “judged the fairest”since the end of military rule in 1999.
Much of the violence takes place in what has been described as the “Middle Belt” between the mostly Muslim north and the largely Christian south, a hot bed for ethnic and sectarian tensions between the two religions in Africa’s most populous nation.