By Worthy News Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (Worthy News)-- Over 40 people have been killed in the Nigerian city of Jos in the country's Plateau State, after around 200 Muslim youths attacked Christians near a Catholic Church sparking retaliatory violence, Christian rights investigators said Monday, January 18.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has closely monitored the situation, quoted local sources as saying the Muslim mob gathered near a house next to St. Michael’s Catholic Church owned by a Muslim man who allegedly murdered three Christians during violence in Jos North in November 2008.
The youths reportedly launched an unprovoked assault on a female passer-by before attacking St Michael’s Church, killing and injuring several members. They also set fire to a score of local houses and businesses and churches, including a Christ Apostolic Church and an ECWA Church (Evangelical Church of West Africa) in Dutse Uku and another ECWA Church in Rikkos, CSW told Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife.
Angered by the violence, Christian youths gathered to launch a counter attack, and the violence soon spread to other areas of Jos North, the group added.
CSW said that 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 have reportedly attributed the violence this weekend's violence 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 uniform.
CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas described the violence as "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."
Rev Yunusa Nmadu, CEO of 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, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). There has been mounting tensions in several states where radical Muslims are reportedly trying to impose strict Islamic, or Sharia, law. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).