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Rights Group Urges Nigerian Government to Act on Sectarian Bloodshed

ICC Note

“This terrible cycle of violence and impunity needs to stop.”

01/27/2011 Nigerian (CNN)-More than 200 people have been killed in a month of deadly sectarian violence in central Nigeria, a human rights monitoring group said Thursday.

The victims, including children, have been hacked to death, burned alive, dragged off buses and have “disappeared,” Human Rights Watch said.

The group appealed to the Nigerian government to “act swiftly to protect civilians of all ethnicity at risk of further attacks or reprisal killings.” It also urged the government to allow Francis Deng, the United Nations secretary-general’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide, to visit central Plateau state.

“This terrible cycle of violence and impunity needs to stop,” Corinne Dufka, the group’s senior West Africa researcher, said in a statement. “Both the state and federal governments have shown a disturbing lack of urgency in addressing the violence and tackling the underlying causes of these deadly outbreaks.”

The wave of violence began with Christmas Eve bomb blasts in two Christian communities in Jos, the state capital that lies on a faith-based fault line between Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria and the mainly Christian south. At least 31 people died in those attacks.

Since then dozens of Muslims and Christians have been targeted and killed based simply on their ethnic or religious identity, Human Rights Watch said. It follows a year of bloodshed in 2010 that left at least 1,000 people dead in Plateau state.

Deng submitted a request to travel to Jos in October but Human Rights Watch said the Nigerian government has not formally replied or authorized the mission.

Witnesses told the rights group that Muslims and Christians were separated on buses, dragged off and hacked to death. Others spoke of people burned alive in their houses.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, more than 13,500 people have died in religious or ethnic clashes since the end of military rule in 1999, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year. The group charges the government exploits the violence for political gain.

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