Nigeria: more than 500 killed in tribal clashes


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More than 500 people, including women and children, from the Berom tribe were killed with machetes, in three Christian villages in Nigeria close to the city of Jos on Sunday. A mainly Muslim clan known as the Fulani have been blamed for the attacks. Homes and churches were also burned. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Catholic Church felt "sadness and concern" at what he called the "horrible acts of violence".

The Archbishop of the Nigerian capital Abuja, John Onaiyekan, warned against reporting the violence as a religious conflict. He told Vatican Radio that the violence was rooted not in religion but in social, economic and tribal differences.

"It is a classic conflict between pastoralists and farmers, except that all the Fulani are Muslims and all the Berom are Christians," he said.

Father Gabriel Gowok, secretary of Jos archdiocese echoed this view, adding: "in the northern regions, the rivalry for control of territory is higher than elsewhere in the country".

Reports suggest Sunday's attack was the result of a spiralling feud between the Fulani and the Berom which had been sparked by the theft of cattle and then fuelled by some deadly reprisals.

A curfew, imposed in January after another outbreak of violence was supposed to be still in place, but churches say the authorities had been unable to enforce it on Sunday.

On Monday the situation in Jos was said to be under control, with army units patrolling the streets, "but the atmosphere remains very, very tense," said Robin Waudo from the Red Cross (ICRC). She said: "Hospitals are under strain as they still continue to accept the wounded."