, ABUJA, Jan 19 – Nigeria\’s Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered troops into the city of Jos, a top security official said Tuesday, after fresh clashes between Muslims and Christians left nearly 200 people dead.
National Security Adviser Sarki Mukthar told reporters that "the military have moved in concert with the police to normalise the situation" in the central city.
He also said the vice president has ordered security chiefs to "immediately move to Jos, assess the situation".
A senior Muslim cleric in the city said earlier Tuesday that clashes had killed nearly 200 people, as terrified residents reported gunshots and smoke billowing from parts of the Plateau State capital.
State authorities placed the city under a 24-hour curfew and terrified residents reported gunshots and smoke billowing from parts of the Plateau State capital in central Nigeria. All flights to the city were suspended, aviation sources said.
The fighting broke out at the weekend over the building of a new mosque. Jos has been a hotbed of sectarian tensions in recent years with hundreds killed.
Most bodies from the latest clashes were taken to the city\\\’s central mosque, according to its head Balarabe Dawud. "We received 156 dead bodies this morning and another 36 this afternoon," Dawud said.
He said at least 800 people had been wounded, 90 of whom had been taken to military hospitals with serious injuries.
Fighting spread to Bukuru on the outskirts of Jos during the day, leaving another three dead and 39 injured, paramedic Maryam Mohammed said at a clinic there.
Dawud said the Jos central mosque had run out of medical supplies to treat the injured. "Even neighbourhood private clinics are full with the injured. Normally these are the places we would have gone to for supplies, but they are also in need of them," he said.
A mosque employee, Mohammed Shittu, told AFP that "the mosque is full with the injured and the dead."
Announcing the extension of a weekend curfew, state information commissioner Gregory Yenlong told AFP: "All residents are hereby directed to stay indoors as security agents work towards restoring peace."
David Maiyaki, a Christian resident of the Dutse Uku area of Jos where the new fighting erupted said the clashes had gone on despite the curfew. "Fighting is continuing unabated," he said.
"We woke up to new fighting this morning. As I am talking to you we are indoors, but there is burning and gunshots all around us," Maiyaki told AFP by phone.
Ibrahim Mudi, a resident of Sabon Fegi suburb, said: "From here I can hear gunshots and see burning buildings from a neighbourhood in the northern part of the city".
"It seems that Jos north is completely on fire," added Mudi, who spoke by phone from his veranda.
Mohammed Ahmad from the Unguwarrogo area said the city "is enveloped in smoke and gunshots have filled the air".
"It\\\’s quite terrifying. We are indoors but we don\\\’t feel safe. It\\\’s like any moment something is going to happen to us," said Ahmad.
Sunday\\\’s fighting had been confined to the predominantly Christian Nassarawa Gwon area but has since spread to other parts of the city, the army said.
"It is not concentrated, it is not limited to one area, it is scattered," army spokesman Colonel Galadima Shekari told AFP.
Fighting first erupted when Christian youths protested the building of a mosque in a Christian-majority area of Nigeria\\\’s 10th city. Houses and vehicles were set ablaze.
Sunday\\\’s clashes killed at least 26 people, according to Muslim leaders. The Red Cross said more than 100 people were seriously injured and that it was struggling to cope with around 3,000 displaced people.
State authorities said on Monday that calm had returned after hundreds of troops and police had been drafted in to impose order and a 12-hour dusk-to-dawn curfew.
Yenlong vowed the state government "will do all it takes to ensure the return of normalcy to the city".
Jos, situated between the Muslim-dominated north and the Christian south, has in recent years been a hotbed of religious violence in Nigeria, whose 150 million people are divided almost equally between followers of the two faiths.
In November 2008, hundreds of people were killed in two days of fighting in the city triggered by a rumour that the mainly Muslim All Nigerian Peoples Party had lost a local election to the Christian dominated People\\\’s Democratic Party.
At least 800 people were killed in Borno State last July when security forces put down an insurrection by a Muslim fundamentalist sect. In December, around 70 were killed in clashes between security forces and members of another radical sect in Bauchi State.