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Huge death toll in Nigeria religious violence

JOS (Nigeria): Rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 200 people including a 4-day-old infant, said residents, less than two months after sectarian violence in the volatile region left more than 300 dead.

One aid worker said on Monday it was difficult to tell how many people had been killed because some bodies were charred beyond recognition.

The violence in three mostly Christian villages on Sunday appeared to be reprisal attacks following the January unrest in Jos when most of the victims were Muslims, said Red Cross State officials did not comment on what may have prompted the latest attacks. The bodies lined dusty streets in three villages south of the regional capital of Jos, said local journalists and a civil rights group on Sunday. They said at least 200 bodies had been counted by Sunday afternoon.

The bodies of children tangled with each other in a local morgue, including a diaper-clad toddler. Another young victim appeared to have been scalped, while others had severed hands and feet.

The Stefanos Foundation, a Christian aid group, confirmed 93 dead in Dogo Nahawa village alone. “These are the ones we know, but there are corpses charred beyond recognition,” he said.

The killings represent the latest religious violence in an area once known as Nigeria's top tourist destination, adding to the tally of thousands already killed in the last decade in the name of religious and political ambitions.

Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people and Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004. More than 300 residents died during a similar uprising in 2008.

Jos lies in Nigeria's “middle belt,” where dozens of ethnic groups mingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

Muslims have complained about being denied jobs and other benefits in Jos by the Christian-dominated government. — AP

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