By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Over 40 people have been killed in the Nigerian city of Jos, the administrative capital of the country’s Plateau State, after a Muslim mob attacked Christians near a Catholic Church sparking retaliatory violence, rights investigators said Monday, January 18.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has closely monitored the situation, quoted local sources as saying around 200 Muslim youth gathered near a house, next to St. Michael’s Catholic Church.
The house is reportedly owned by a Muslim man who allegedly murdered three Christians during violence in Jos in November 2008.
From there, the mob launched this weekend an “unprovoked assault on a female passer-by” before attacking St. Michael’s Church, killing and injuring several members, CSW told BosNewsLife. They also set fire to a score of local houses, businesses and churches, including a Christ Apostolic Church, a church affiliated to the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) and another ECWA Church, CSW said.
Angered by the violence, Christian youths launched a counter attack and clashes soon spread to other areas of Jos North, one of three local government areas in the city, the group added.
CSW said at least 20 corpses were counted in Jos University Teaching Hospital, 19 in the Airforce Hospital and 10 in Plateau State Specialist Hospital. Seven more were lying on the road, the group added. The military were also seen loading bodies into trucks.
Plateau State police reportedly attributed the bloodshed to the ” unprovoked attack on St. Michael’s Church” and said 30 armed people had been arrested in connection with the attack, five of whom were wearing military uniforms.
CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas called the clashes “the latest in a series of attacks on the Christian community of Jos that began in 2001.”
Thomas said however that, “Unfortunately, since perpetrators of religious violence are rarely brought to justice, many in northern and central states no longer trust the authorities to guarantee their safety.” CSW has urged state and federal authorities to end “the tragic cycle of religious violence in Northern and Central Nigeria.”
Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, who leads CSW Nigeria, said the apparent refusal by authorities to prosecute those responsible for previous attacks against Christians contributed to Sunday’s clashes. “If the people arrested in connection with the November 2008 violence and reportedly transferred to Abuja for trial had indeed been prosecuted, this would been a deterrent, and perhaps the current violence may not have occurred.”
Christians comprise 40 percent of Nigeria’s Muslim-majority population of some 150 million people. There has been mounting tensions in several states where radical Muslims are reportedly trying to impose strict Islamic, or Sharia, law.