By Paul Jongas, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Nigeria
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Nigerian authorities say the death toll of sectarian riots in central Nigeria has risen to 10, fueling concerns of a widening conflict involving Muslims and Christians in this African nation.
Abubakar Sadani, the councilor of a ward in Ibi town in Nigeria’s Taraba state, said the victims died in clashes that began Sunday, November 18.
Besides the dead, over 200 people were said to have sustained varying degrees of injuries and local hospitals were struggling to cope with the influx of victims.
Several homes were set ablaze in the violence, eyewitnesses said.
The riots broke out after a Muslim resident was killed by what reporters called “Christian vigilante” when he tried to go through a checkpoint set up as a response to church attacks.
Local Christians reportedly set up the barricade near the local Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria while a service was underway to prevent Muslim militants from driving to the Church.
It was not clear why government forces were not in charge of security in the area.
Militant group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, has claimed most of these attacks as part of its efforts to establish a strict Islamic state.
Police spokesman Amos Alaoye told reporters that a tense calm has returned to the area, after the deployment of troops.
Local media reported that authorities detained several suspects dressed in Aamy uniforms.
In published remarks, the state government declared a 24-hour curfew in the town to avoid further escalation of the violence while government security forces patrolled the streets.
Several AK 47 rifles and even a rocket launcher were aiming the weapons captured by government troops, officials said.
The state Commissioner for Information, Emmanuel Bello, said the government “will stop at nothing to return peace” to the troubled town.
Both central and national governments have come under pressure to improve protection of Christians in especially central and northern states, where Muslim militants have pledged to drive out the Christian minority.
(With editing by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)