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Troops Deployed to Stop Fighting in Central Nigeria

28 November 2008
Government troops have been called in to deal with spreading religious violence in the central Nigerian Plateau state. Dozens are feared dead and several houses have been destroyed. Residents are appealing for help as the government imposed a nighttime curfew on the central Nigerian city of Jos. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja.

Residents of Tudun Wada, on the outskirt of Jos, the capital of Plateau state, said it had been a bloody day as gunfire and explosions rattled around the region.

A Muslim resident of Tudun Wada, Abdullahi Mohammed, said the minority Muslim community is under siege and appealed for urgent help.

"We don't know what will happen in Tudun Wada," he said. "The whole area will be ablaze. We don't have anything to defend ourselves. We don't have anything to eat. As I'm speaking to you, they just killed my younger brother. They shot him dead. We need government to pull out our children and women out of the area so that whatever will happen let it happen. The situation is terribly bad. Please we need a helping hand."

The violence was reportedly triggered by a disputed vote for a new local government chairman in Jos North, the commercial center of Plateau state and a key political constituency.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with 140 million people, is roughly equally divided between Muslims and Christians, who generally live peacefully side by side.

Former Nigerian President and UN special envoy to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Olusegun Obasanjo (file photo)
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (file)
But hostility has simmered in the past in Plateau state.

Hundreds were killed in ethnic-religious street fighting in Jos in 2001. Three years later, hundreds more died in clashes in the town of Yelwa, leading then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew.