200 held over Nigeria killings

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The Independent Online

Police in Nigeria have arrested around 200 people following weekend attacks on three Christian villages in which hundreds of people were thought to have been killed.

The central city of Jos, at the crossroads of Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian south, has been tense since Sunday's attacks, blamed on northern settlers, on the villages of Dogo Nahawa, Zot and Ratsat just south of the Plateau state capital.

The bloodshed put Africa's most populous nation back in the spotlight, with foreign governments including the United States and international rights groups urging the authorities to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. "About 200 people have been arrested so far," Mohammed Lerama, Plateau police spokesman, said. "All of them will be charged to court. Some were arrested for unlawful possession of firearms, some who were breaking curfew periods, some for unlawful assembly."

Fierce competition for control of fertile farmlands between Christian and animist indigenous groups and Muslim settlers from the north have repeatedly triggered unrest in central Nigeria's "Middle Belt".

Retaliatory attacks are not uncommon and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has put the security forces on red alert to try to prevent unrest spreading to neighbouring states. Plateau state government and army chiefs have traded blame over Sunday's killing – less than two months after days of clashes between Muslim and Christian mobs killed more than 400 people around Jos.

Hundreds of women marched in Jos on Thursday to demand the removal of army chiefs and justice for the victims. "The carnage was carried out in the night and Jos is on a 6pm to 6am curfew. They must have passed through checkpoints," said John Gotip, one of scores of men who marched with the women.

State Governor Jonah Jang has blamed the military for failing to respond to his warning that movements of armed men had been reported before the attacks. The local army commander denied he had been informed of any planned attack.