Soldiers in a central Nigerian city opened fire Saturday on university students protesting continuing violence between Christians and Muslims, witnesses said, with at least nine people killed in the ensuing violence.
The shooting came as gas stations and farmers’ markets smoldered after late Friday violence that sparked when Christian students attacked Muslims trying to bury a corpse in Jos, a city at the epicenter of tensions between Nigeria’s two dominant faiths. One Muslim died in that attack, which sparked retaliatory assaults on Christian churches in the region Saturday morning.
This is the latest violence in Jos and its surrounding villages, a region once known as a vacation spot for British colonialists and as a tin mining town. Human Rights Watch said at least 1,000 people died in 2010 and another 200 more have died within the last month in violence largely fueled by ethnic, economic and political disputes.
Saturday morning, witnesses said students marched toward soldiers, upset over the deaths of the fellow classmates. A student leader told The Associated Press that two students had died — one stabbed by a rioter, another shot dead.
Brig. Gen. Hassan Umaru told journalists that soldiers opened fire because the students had refused to return to the University of Jos campus. Umaru said he had no information about any deaths in the shooting.
Plateau state police commissioner Abdurrahman Akanu said he had no information on the latest violence.
Later on Saturday, Muslim rioters tore down a Baptist church and another Christian church was set ablaze, said Mark Lipdo, who runs a nonprofit Christian organization in the city. Lipdo said three others had been killed in the violence, including a 7-year-old child.
Lawyer Ahmed Garba, who represents an Islamic group in the region, said four bodies had been brought to the city’s central mosque. Garba said mosque officials continued to look for wounded and dead people in the streets.
As many as 13 people died overnight Thursday after gunmen attacked four Christian villages near Jos. The city has been on edge since a series of bombs exploded there Christmas Eve, killing dozens.
Nigeria, an oil-rich country of 150 million people, is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. Jos is in the nation’s “middle belt,” where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands.
Recent violence in central and northern Nigeria comes as President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian who took power after the death of Nigeria’s elected Muslim leader, seeks the presidency. Some believe a northern candidate should stand in Jonathan’s place to appease an unwritten power-sharing agreement in the oil-rich nation’s ruling party.
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