Jos ? Raids and reprisal attacks have left 37 people dead in Christian villages near a Nigerian city where authorities have struggled to contain religious violence, authorities say. The spokesperson for a special taskforce made up of policemen and soldiers deployed in the area to curb years of violence, Mustapha Salisu, said on Sunday that assailants had launched ?sophisticated attacks? on several villages near Jos early on Saturday.

?Hundreds of them came. Some wore (police) uniforms and some even had bulletproof vests.?

He said the special taskforce fought back for hours and lost two policemen in the battle. He said 14 civilians were killed in the raids and that the taskforce killed 21 assailants.

?More than 100 people have been displaced,? said Andronicus Adeyemo, an official with the Nigerian Red Cross.

Authorities declined to comment on who they suspect, but similar raids have been blamed on Muslim herdsmen in the past. Jos and the surrounding Plateau state have been torn apart in recent years by violence pitting its different ethnic groups and major religions ? Christianity and Islam ? against each other.

While divided by religion, politics and economics often fuel the fighting. These are just the latest killings to target the Riyom and Barkin Ladi local government areas, regions of farmlands that supply produces like potatoes, corn and tomatoes to the rest of the nation.

Nigeria, a multi-ethnic nation of more than 160 million people, is largely divided into a mainly Christian south and a predominantly Muslim north. Jos is located in the ?middle belt,? at the meeting point of these two regions.

Source : AP


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