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Nigerian Christians accused of 'genocide'

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  • Zafar Khan
    Nigerian Christians accused of genocide By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor 06 May 2004 http://news.independent.co.uk/world/africa/story.jsp?story=518590
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2004
      Nigerian Christians accused of 'genocide'
      By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor
      06 May 2004


      Nigeria's top Muslim leader yesterday accused
      Christian militias of committing "genocide" against
      Muslims, as riot police were sent to quell worsening
      sectarian unrest.

      Justice Abdulkadir Orire, the secretary general of the
      umbrella organisation Jama'atu Nasril Islam, risked
      fuelling the unrest when he suggested that the state
      governor may have been complicit in the weekend
      attacks in the central town of Yelwa that may have
      left 300 people dead.

      "The information we have is that 300 people died and
      they are mostly Muslims. We call it a genocide because
      they are killing women and children," Mr Orire told
      Reuters news agency.

      The clashes, pitting farmers of the Christian Tarok
      tribe against Muslim Fulani cattle herders, are part
      of a bitter struggle over land in the fertile Plateau
      state. According to Mr Orire, at least 700 people have
      been killed in Yelwa in three months of ethnic
      violence. Reporters who entered the town on Tuesday
      saw mutilated and charred corpses on the streets as
      Muslims lined the roadside vowing revenge for the
      attacks. Almost every house on the main street had
      been burnt down, and a mosque was destroyed. In
      neighbouring Christian villages, youths were reported
      to be preparing for a new round of bloodletting.

      According to Mr Orire, who is a spokesman for
      Nigeria's 60 million Muslims, police stationed in
      Yelwa were withdrawn four days before the attack,
      despite complaints from local Muslims that they were
      surrounded by Taroks amid rising tension. The
      Christian militias, who were armed with machine guns,
      surrounded Yelwa on Sunday night and reportedly went
      from house to house, killing anyone in sight.

      "It seems that the governor is supporting the move. We
      heard that the government said [non-indigenous people]
      should move out of the area," Mr Orire said. "That is
      very bad. He should look after everyone in the state
      and not just his own tribe." A dusk-to-dawn curfew is
      now in force in the area, and soldiers have been
      ordered to shoot troublemakers on sight. President
      Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered hundreds of riot police
      on to the streets.

      The feud has been fuelled by what is seen as
      irresponsible allocation of land by the government and
      growing lawlessness across Nigeria.

      Tens of thousands have already had to leave their
      homes in Plateau and thousands now live in temporary
      accommodation in three states.

      Ethnic clashes kill hundreds in Nigeria

      Reuters in Yelwa
      Wednesday May 5, 2004
      The Guardian


      Hundreds of Muslims have been killed by Christian
      militia in the latest outbreak of ethnic fighting in
      the central Nigerian town of Yelwa, a senior police
      officer said yesterday.
      Mutilated and charred corpses were still lying on the
      main street of the market town as thousands of Muslims
      lined the roadside chanting religious slogans and
      vowing revenge on the attackers.

      "Allah will avenge us. The pagans have killed our
      people," one man said. "There will be religious war in
      this country," said another. Many had white powder
      marks on their noses, a sign of mourning.

      The conflict between the Tarok, a Christian tribe of
      farmers, and the Fulani, nomadic Muslim cattle
      herders, is rooted in competing claims for the fertile
      farmland in the heart of Africa's most populous

      There are few details about how the bloodletting
      unfolded or the exact death toll, but a senior police
      officer told Reuters: "Hundreds of people including
      students, women and children were killed."

      His estimate was supported by a villager who said he
      had dug a mass grave for more than 300 people on
      Monday, the second day of the killings.

      The police had previously reported recovering 67
      corpses. A Reuters witness counted 10 others on

      Almost every house lining the main street of Yelwa was
      burned and some were still smouldering on Tuesday. A
      mosque was also destroyed. Charred beds, mattresses
      and kitchen utensils were scattered on the ground.

      An armed convoy carrying a local politician and
      workers to dig mass graves drove through the town
      yesterday but could not stop because of the heightened

      "The bodies were all over the place yesterday. Some of
      them must have been removed because the deputy
      governor was coming," the police officers said.

      Before this attack, at least 350 people had been
      killed in three months of tit-for-tat fighting between
      the Tarok and Fulani.

      About 100 soldiers were on the streets of Yelwa
      yesterday, after earlier attempts by police to enter
      to the town failed due to the superior firepower of
      the Tarok militia, the policeman said.

      Analysts say the feud has been fuelled by the
      irresponsible allocation of land by the government and
      growing lawlessness across Nigeria.

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