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(AP) – Nigeria’s president declared a state of emergency in a troubled central state on Tuesday, invoking sweeping powers in a bid to halt religious and ethnic bloodletting that he said posed a “great threat” to national unity. The declaration came amid reports of new violence by suspected Muslim militants against four predominantly Christian villages in Plateau state, wracked for months by cycles of revenge raids. Survivors of Tuesday’s attacks spoke of gunmen opening fire on fleeing civilians and burning homes. President Olusegun Obasanjo sacked Gov. Joshua Dariye and dissolved the legislature in the central state of Plateau, saying elected officials had “wittingly and unwittingly encouraged acts that have subverted peace and tranquility.” The state of emergency – announced in an address on national radio and television – came after months of violence in the state of hilly farms and pastures.