Relaymedia

Houses of Worship Burned, Over 300 Killed in Nigeria

( [email protected] ) Nov 30, 2008 01:54 PM EST

More than 300 people have died in Muslim-Christian clashes in the worst sectarian violence in Nigeria since 2004, when some 700 people were killed.

Angry mobs burned homes, churches and mosques on Saturday in the central state of Plateau in the second day of riots, according to The Associated Press. Though initially a clash between supporters of the region’s two main political parties following the election, the violence was soon divided along ethnic and religious lines.

Tension began when electoral workers did not post the results in ballot centers, causing many locals to assume the election was going to be another fraudulent political event.

After riots broke out, a curfew was declared and the governor of Plateau state ordered troops to shoot on sight to enforce the curfew in neighborhoods affected by the violence, according to Reuters.

About 7,000 people in conflict areas have left their homes and are seeking refuge in government buildings and religious centers, the Red Cross reported.

Sectarian violence is not new in Plateau state, with more than 1,000 people killed in Jos – the state’s capital – in September 2001 due to Christian-Muslim hostility.

This weekend’s sectarian violence was the worst clash in the West African nation since 2004, when as many as 700 died in Plateau and over 100 churches were destroyed. The 2004 violence was said to be sparked by land disputes between members of the predominantly Christian Tarok tribe and Muslim Hausa-Fulani farmer.

Nigeria is split nearly evenly between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian south. According to Compass Direct, religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians have claimed more than 10,000 lives since 1999.