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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Tuesday 4 May 2004

NIGERIA: Dozens killed in fresh sectarian attack in Plateau state

ABUJA, 4 May 2004 (IRIN) - A Christian militia force attacked a predominantly Muslim town in central Nigeria at the weekend, killing at least 67 people and injuring many others, police and residents said on Tuesday.

The attackers from the mainly agrarian Tarok ethnic group invaded the town of Yelwa - inhabited mainly by Muslims - Plateau State on Sunday, they said.

The raid on the town 220 km east of the federal capital Abuja was apparently in retaliation for a previous Muslim attack on a nearby Tarok community.

Police said the raiders burned houses and attacked the inhabitants of Yelwa with guns and matchetes.

"We have so far removed 67 bodies and we're still searching because there may be more," Sotonye Wakama, a senior police official in the area told reporters in Jos, the Plateau State capital.

Ibrahim Mustapha, a survivor who escaped to Jos, said more than 100 people, mainly women and children, were killed by the heavily armed militia.

"We were taken unawares by the Tarok who surrounded the town before launching the attack," Mustapha said.

Officials of the Nigerian Red Cross confirmed the latest fighting but declined to give any death toll.

"I can only tell you that about 60 injured people are now receiving treatment while more than 1,000 people were displaced," an official said without disclosing his name.

Hundreds of people have been killed in tit-for-tat violence between Christians and Muslims in Plateau State since the beginning of this year.

The raids have often been linked to land disputes as well as religious and ethnic differences. The Christian communities are mainly farmers while the Muslims are predominantly herders.

Plateau State has been racked by intermittent ethnic and religious violence since sectarian clashes between Christians and Muslims in Jos in 2001 left more than 1,000 people dead.


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