January 21, 2010 / 8:55 AM / 9 years ago

Calm restored in Nigeria's Jos, curfew relaxed

JOS, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian authorities relaxed a 24-hour curfew in the city of Jos on Thursday to allow thousands of residents to return to their homes following clashes between Muslims and Christians that killed hundreds.

People wait outside their homes along a road in Nigeria's central city of Jos January 20, 2010. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The strong presence of troops and police has helped restore calm in the capital of Plateau state with no reports of major violence for nearly a day.

Four days of sectarian clashes this week killed more than 460 in and around the central Nigerian city.

The Red Cross estimated 17,000 people have been displaced and took shelter in colleges, hospitals and schools since clashes began on Sunday.

“There are so many people that need clothing, food and water. The Red Cross is focusing on those injured and referring some to hospital,” an agency spokesman said, adding that about 990 have been hospitalised.

Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang relaxed the curfew in Jos to operate between 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) and 10 a.m. to allow people to return to their homes.

The clashes have not had an impact on sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy. Its oil industry is in the south and the banks mainly in the commercial capital Lagos.

“Most emphasis is on the health of the banks and the president and the renewed violence is not expected to have significant macroeconomic effect,” said Richard Segal, analyst at Knight Libertas.

The relative calm has allowed some businesses to reopen and families to reunite, but the city remained tense with hundreds of soldiers and police patrolling the streets.

“I have come to pick up my children who ran into the camps with my mother. Now that normalcy is returning, I feel safe to see them,” said Tunde Oyalemi, a Jos resident.

Mosque officials were also free to travel to nearby communities and bury the dead.

“We are preparing to bury them now as the violence has stopped and we have the manpower to do it,” said Muhammed Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials.

Mosque officials have estimated the number of dead Muslims since Sunday at about 400. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said at least 65 Christians had died.

Official government figures were significantly lower at 75 dead, more than 200 injured and 200 arrested.

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