UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
NIGERIA: Red Cross cares for 7,500 displaced by latest Plateau violence, tension continues
LAGOS, 10 May 2004 (IRIN) - A total of 7,500 people displaced from their home's following a murderous attack by Christian militiamen on the mainly Muslim town of Yelwa in central Nigeria have been evacuated and put in the care of the Nigerian Red Cross, officials said on Monday.
Emmanuel Ijewere, the president of the Nigerian Red Cross, said they had been relocated from Yelwa in Plateau State to predominantly Muslim areas of neighbouring Bauchi and Nassarawa states.
According to the Red Cross, the attack on 2 May by men from the mainly Christian Tarok tribe resulted in the death of more than 600 people. The victims of the massacre and those who fled Yelwa afterwards were mainly people from the Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups with roots in the north of the country.
Ijewere told IRIN that 185 injured people had been treated by a Red Cross team that arrived in the town on Thursday. Many of them were too scared to go into local hospitals, he added.
Tarok fighters attacked Yelwa shooting residents with automatic weapons, hacking them down with machetes and burning them alive in their houses.
The government has deployed extra troops to the area and police have stepped up street patrols in the state capital Jos in a bid to forestall any fresh outbreak of sectarian violence.
Ijewere said about 60 percent of those treated in Yelwa had suffered minor injuries and were immediately discharged, but the rest required further medical attention. However, many had refused to be admitted to hospitals in Plateau State, fearing they would be simply finished off.
"Many of those who were injured do not want to receive treatment from hospitals in Plateau State as a result of the distrust" between the state's Muslim minority and the Christian majority.
The Red Cross is bearing the extra burden of taking them to farther places where they would feel safer for treatment, he said.
Police sources in Jos, said 37 people - mainly women and children - abducted by the Tarok fighters during the attack on Yelwa were set free in the nearby village of Garkawa on Saturday, but others were still missing.
"Several others have still not been freed and nothing is known about their fate for now," a senior police official told IRIN.
The attack was in apparent reprisal for a raid by a Muslim militia in February in which 48 people, including Tarok Christians and other non-Muslims, were killed. Most of them were killed while taking refuge in a church.
Plateau State has been rocked by intermittent bursts of ethnic and religious clashes and attacks since 2001, when about 1,000 people were killed in clashes between Christians and Muslims in Jos.
That outbreak of violence followed growing tension between Christians and Muslims over the adoption of a strict Islamic Shari'ah legal code by 12 states in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria.
Many non-Muslims regard the introduction of Shari'ah as a plot to achieve Islamic hegemony in Nigeria.
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