JOS, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gangs of armed youths in the volatile Nigerian city of Jos attacked Muslims as they gathered to celebrate the last day of Ramadan on Monday, killing a number of them and burning their cars, witnesses and the military said.
The city, which lies between the country’s mostly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south, has been a flash point for ethnic and sectarian tensions between the two faiths.
If the violence worsens or triggers reprisals, it may prove another major headache for President Goodluck Jonathan, whose security forces are already stretched by daily attacks from an Islamist sect in the northeast, which also claimed Friday’s deadly bomb attack on the U.N. offices in Abuja that killed 23.
“The Muslim faithful went for their Eid prayers and on completion of the prayers they were trapped by the youths in that area,” Brigadier General Hassan Umaru, commander of the military Special Task Force keeping security in Jos, told Reuters by telephone.
“They burnt some cars, quite a number a of cars. The number of people killed, I can’t give that yet. We are still checking with local hospital sources,” he added. He said there had been several deaths.
Witnesses said Christian youths set up road blocks and attacked Muslims as they gathered in Jos’s Gada Biu and Rukuba areas, shooting a number of them dead.
A Reuters witness saw several bodies. At least one was charred after being set alight.
Umaru said the youths had since been “pacified.”
Nigeria has a roughly equal Christian-Muslim mix.
More than 200 ethnic groups live side by side in the West African country. Though generally peaceful, Nigeria has seen periodic bouts of religious violence, with Jos in particular showing a tendency to flare up.
At least 80 people were killed in bombings there last December 24 and clashes between Muslim and Christian youths.