Nigeria riot victims swamp medics


Hospitals in a Nigerian city that was convulsed by lethal sectarian violence at the weekend are struggling to cope, say aid officials.

Bodies awaiting burial were piled up at wards in Jos, witnesses said, as troops enforced a curfew amid an uneasy calm.

The state authorities claim that foreigners from neighbouring Chad and Niger were involved in the clashes, which claimed at least 200 lives.

Violence flared on Friday amid claims an election had been rigged.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the fighting appears to be over and Jos is now counting the cost of the latest confrontation between Christians and Muslims in recent years.

Hundreds of people are seeking sanctuary in police stations and the local army barracks.

Churches and mosques were torched as mobs from the Muslim Hausa community and mainly Christian ethnic groups armed with machetes went on the rampage.

Oxfam co-ordinator Francis Ayinzat told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "Hospitals are currently overwhelmed by the number of people that have been injured being brought in as a result of this crisis.

"They are running short of medical supplies, the nurses are overwhelmed, they can't even efficiently attend to the wounded people who are being brought into the hospital."

The authorities have said about 200 people died but our correspondent says the death toll may be far higher.

A mass burial of 238 bodies took place on Sunday, the AP news agency quotes witnesses as saying.

A local imam at the mosque where Muslims brought their dead said the number was in the hundreds.

G N S Pwajok, director-general in the office of the Plateau State governor, told the BBC foreigners from Chad and Niger were involved in the violence, which he said had aimed "to turn Nigeria into a crisis".

Nigeria's army reportedly beefed up its presence in Jos on Monday with reinforcements.

"The president has directed the chief of army staff to send in more troops to Jos to speed up the return to normalcy in the city," Sani Usman, spokesman for the chief of army staff told AFP news agency.

Police arrested 500 people on Saturday, officials have said.

The fighting erupted on Friday after the mostly Christian-backed governing party, the People's Democratic Party, was declared to have won the state elections in Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital city.

The result was contested by the opposition All Nigeria People's Party, which is perceived in the state as a predominantly Muslim party.

Nigeria's 140 million people are split almost equally between Muslims and Christians and the two communities generally live peacefully side by side.

But Jos has seen repeated bouts of inter-communal violence, with more than 1,000 killed during riots in 2001.

The real trigger for confrontation is usually competition for resources, our correspondent says.

And in Nigeria political office is perhaps the most powerful resource of all as it gives the holder access to some of country's huge oil revenues.