INSIGHT-Islamist attacks strain Nigeria's north-south divide

Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:04pm GMT

* Christmas Day bombings rub raw sectarian feelings

* Christian leaders see Boko Haram "declaration of war"

* Analysts fear more violence, but civil war not likely

* Worries that sect's attacks could reach oil-rich south

By Tim Cocks

JOS, Nigeria, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The line dividing Christians from Muslims that runs along a rocky valley in the central Nigerian town of Jos may not be visible to the eye, but it burns in the minds of local people.

The mosque lies barely 200 metres (yards) from the main church in the Congo-Russia neighbourhood, a huddle of tin-roofed homes winding up a hill, and on its sandy pavements women in Muslim headscarves politely greet men wearing shiny crucifixes.

Jos, in Nigeria's volatile "Middle Belt", is historically a religious and ethnic tinderbox in the country's sensitive North-South divide between Muslims and Christians.

Deadly Christmas Day bomb attacks by shadowy Islamist sect Boko Haram - suspected of links to al Qaeda and with ambitions to impose Islamic sharia law in Nigeria - have stoked fears again of sectarian conflict in Africa's top oil producer and most populous state.   Continued...

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