Christians and Muslims clash following bombings

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The Independent Online

Clashes broke out between armed Christian and Muslim groups yesterday near the central Nigerian city of Jos, after bombings in the region killed more than 30 people on Christmas Eve.

Buildings were set ablaze and people were seen running for cover as police and soldiers arrived on the scene in an effort to disperse crowds. Injured people covered in blood were being dragged by friends and family to hospital, witnesses reported.

The unrest was triggered by explosions on Friday in villages near Jos, the capital of Plateau state, that killed at least 32 people and left 74 critically injured.

The Red Cross said on Christmas Day it could not give the total number of deaths caused by the explosions but confirmed that 95 people were seriously injured in hospital.

The Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, was expected in Jos yesterday.

The unrest has come at a difficult time for President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running a controversial campaign ahead of the ruling party's primary elections on 13 January. An internal pact agreed by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) says that power should rotate between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south every two terms.

Speaking in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI condemned attacks on two Christian churches in north-east Nigeria on Christmas Day, while Italy's Foreign Ministry said it would summon the Nigerian ambassador shortly to express its concern. Italy often backs the Vatican's concern about religious violence against Catholics and other Christians.

Mr Jonathan is a southerner who inherited office when President Umaru Yar'Adua, a northerner, died during his first term this year. Some northern factions in the ruling party are opposed to his candidacy.

He faces a challenge from a former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, for the ruling party nomination.