Sectarian bloodbath as 500 villagers butchered
Babies mutilated as Nigerian Muslim gangs target Christians
Published 09/03/2010 | 05:00
ON the dusty streets of three Christian villages in northern Nigeria, dozens of bodies lined the streets yesterday. Other victims of the weekend's Muslim fury jammed a local morgue, the limbs of slaughtered children tangled in a grotesque mess.
One toddler appeared fixed in the protective but hopeless embrace of an older child, possibly his brother. Another had been scalped. Most had severed hands and feet.
Officials estimate that 500 people were massacred in night-time raids by rampaging Muslim gangs near the city of Jos, where the Christian-Muslim fault line cuts across Nigeria.
Local journalists and civil rights organisations who toured the area yesterday said they had counted at least 200 victims shot and hacked to death in apparent revenge for sectarian violence in January that claimed about 300 lives from the two communities.
Mark Lipdo, a co-ordinator for the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian aid group, confirmed at least 93 dead in one village. "But there are corpses charred beyond recognition," he said.
Survivors claimed that Muslim inhabitants of the targeted villages of Zot, Dogo Nahawa and Rastat had received telephone calls two days before the attack telling them to leave the area.
Witnesses said gangs waited at main entry points to the villages while others went from house to house, setting the homes on fire.
Those who fled were killed at the exit points. Others were slaughtered after being caught in animal traps and nets as they ran in the dark.
Ben Kwashi, Anglican Archbishop of Jos, said he visited one of three villages engulfed by the violence. "I could see kids from age zero to teenagers, all butchered from the back, macheted in their necks, their heads. Deep cuts in the mouths of babies. The stench. People wailing and crying," he said.
Nigeria's Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, ordered troops into the riot-affected area "to confront and defeat these roving bands of killers", he said in a statement. Last night he sacked Sarki Mukhtar, the national security adviser, a powerful figure in the inner circle of the ailing President, Umaru Yar'Adua.
Christian youths accused the military of complicity in the killings.
Survivors said entire families were killed, some to the chants of Allahu Akbar -- God is Greatest. They said villagers awoke to shouting and gunfire at about 3am on Sunday.
"They then set homes on fire and attacked men, women and children. Many were decapitated," said Theresa Malinowska, press officer for Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Staff counted the bodies of four babies and 28 small children in one location alone.
Jos is the regional capital of Plateau State, where Christians from Nigeria's south and Muslims from the north compete over the fertile farmland. The area has often been a flashpoint. In rioting in September 2001 1,000 people died and Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004.
Jos has been under a dusk-until-dawn curfew since January's violence. Archbishop Kwashi said he believed a significant organisation was behind the killings because they happened during curfew, with the army in the area. (©The Times London)