NIGERIA: Thousands displaced in Jos riots

KANO, 18 January 2010 (IRIN) - Several thousand residents of Jos, in central Nigeria, are displaced after their homes burned in deadly sectarian clashes, according to residents and the local Red Cross.

Local authorities have not confirmed the death toll from the 17 January violence but information IRIN obtained from hospital sources and residents put the number at 26, with 300 people injured.

"We have [set up] five makeshift camps in police barracks, mosques and churches, sheltering 2,800 displaced people," Awwalu Mohammed, head of Nigeria Red Cross (NRC) in Jos, capital of Plateau State, told IRIN.

"These people don't have enough food and water," he said. "They have lost their they couldn't salvage anything from their belongings. They are in urgent need of clothing and blankets to protect them from the cold, especially children who are more vulnerable to the unfriendly harmattan [seasonal winds]."

Many more displaced people are staying with friends and relatives in other parts of Jos city, Mohammed added.

Violence erupted in the Dutse Uku neighbourhood of the predominantly Christian Nassarawa Gwom district. Residents told IRIN the clashes followed a dispute over a Muslim resident's reconstruction of his home that had been burned down in February 2008 riots, in which according to Human Rights Watch 133 people died.

The NRC is coordinating its response with the government's National Emergency Management Agency and has appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross for support.

Military and police are patrolling Jos city and a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on 17 January remains in effect, Plateau State information commissioner, Gregory Yenlong, told IRIN on 18 January.

Gregory Anting, state police commissioner, told IRIN police have arrested 35 people, five of whom were in military uniform.

The Red Cross's Mohammed told IRIN the NRC recorded 102 people admitted to five hospitals in the city with gunshot wounds, while others with less severe injuries had been treated and discharged.

"We are not keen on issuing statistics at the moment because our preoccupation is in providing humanitarian assistance to the living who are in dire need of aid," he said.