By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in central Nigeria could mourn their dead Sunday, February 24, after the massacre of a Christian family while sectarian clashes killed one person and left churches, homes and mosques burnt, officials said.
In one the worst incidents since Thursday, February 21, suspected Muslim attackers used machetes and guns to murder 10 members of the same Christian family in Plateau state, with half the victims under the age of six, the military and government confirmed.
“A [Christian Berom] family of 10 were … murdered” by Muslim Fulani herdsmen said Pam Ayuba, the governor’s spokesman, in published remarks. “Five little children including a two-month-old child were slaughtered.”
Members of the mostly Christian Berom ethnic group, who consider themselves the state’s indigenous people, have previously accused the military of involvement in violence on behalf of the Fulani.
MILITARY DENIES WRONGDOING
However French news agency AFP quoted a military spokesman in Plateau, Lt. Kingsley Amos, as saying no soldiers were involved in the attack.
“Somehow, some hoodlums and criminals gained access to our old uniforms…but I can assure that none of our people were involved,” he said.
Soon after Thursday’s massacre, frustration over deep rooted religious tensions emerged around a football fiend in neighboring Taraba state where riots left at least one person dead, authorities said.
The violence Saturday, February 23, in the central town of Wukari began when Muslim and religious Christian football teams argued over who had the right to a football pitch, Taraba state police spokesman Amos Olaoye said in a statement.
TWO SIDES ATTACK
“While the two sides were arguing, a local hunter returning from the bush was passing and the two sides made for his gun, which resulted in a struggle,” he said. “The gun went off, killing one person, and fighting broke off between the two sides.”
AFP quoted him as saying that several buildings “were burnt in the violence including places of worship” such as churches, mosques as well as homes.
It was not immediately clear how extensive the damage was as security forces were focusing on restoring “normalcy as well as law and order,” Olaoye said.
Analysts say Islamist group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, has encouraged the sectarian violence.
WIDER DEADLY CAMPAIGN
It has waged a deadly insurgency in north and central Nigeria as part of its efforts to establish an Islamic state, killing hundreds since 2009, and urging surviving Christians to leave.
Hard-line Islamists are also accused of using the airwaves to spread hatred. On Saturday, February 23, Nigeria confirmed it had suspended the licence of a radio station for allegedly encouraging deadly attacks on polio clinic.
Suspected Islamic gunmen attacked two polio clinics in the northern city of Kano on February 8, killing at least 10 people, after Wazobia FM broadcast a story reviving claims that the vaccines are part of a Western plot to harm Muslims.
Two journalists and an Islamic cleric were reportedly charged with inciting violence, but the station chief Sanusi Kankarofi denied the allegations, and resigned in protest after his colleagues were charged.
POLIO EMERGENCY REMAINS
Nigeria is among the last three countries still considered to have endemic polio, along with Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to international aid workers.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has come under pressure from Christians and rights activists to do more to tackle Islamic extremism.
His government claims it takes the threats seriously by sending additional troops to key trouble spots.
The country of 150 million people and Africa’s largest oil producer is divided between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south.
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