Jos grounded as govt declares 24-hour curfew

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The sectarian violence that was unleashed on Jos, the Plateau State capital on Sunday, was on Tuesday aggravated with soldiers deployed in the city to contain the crisis.

The violence has extended to major settlements in the city, including neighbouring Bukuru, the headquarters of Jos South Local Government Area.

Governor Jonah Jang consequently extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew he imposed on the city on Sunday to 24 hours.

The death toll was said to have risen to 71 and hundreds of persons wounded.

The Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Jidauna Dimka, was said to have narrowly escaped death when he ran into some riotous youths on his way to the Government House in Rayfield.

His driver was reported to have beat a retreat when the youths stopped his car.

It was learnt that a yet-to-be identified Assistant Supretendent of Police was killed at Sabo Barki.

A meeting of the state executive council, scheduled to be held in the Government House, had to be moved to the governor’s residence in Du, a few kilometres from Bukuru.

Traders that had earlier opened shops hurriedly closed their stores on hearing the announcement of the 24-hour curfew aired on the state radio.

The state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Gregory Yenlong, who gave the order in a live broadcast on Tuesday, advised all residents to stay indoors as security agents tried to contain the situation.

He said that people on essential duties like medical personnel, media practitioners and security operatives would be allowed to move out.

As the situation worsened, Jang was said to have met with some of the retired generals from the state and made a state broadcast.

But despite the curfew, violence still continued in areas around Duala and Rikkos as soldiers engaged riotous youths.

A Red Cross spokesman said the agency was sending 10 workers from their headquarters in Abuja to help reinforce their office in Jos.

However, there are conflicting reports of the actual figure of casualty and arrested suspects.

While our correspondent learnt that no fewer than 225 persons had been arrested and 71 dead, the police said only 51 arrests were made and 13 confirmed dead.

The acting police spokesperson, Mr. Yemi Ajayi, who disclosed this in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, however refused to disclose the identities of those arrested.

Ajayi also said the identities of those that died would be known at the end of what he called “fuller investigations.”

According to him, “We have been having what I will call a daily report since the crisis started. As at now, I can confirm to you that 51 suspects have been arrested and they are being interrogated to know the level or otherwise of their involvement in the crisis.

“Also, 13 people have been confirmed dead. Just as I will not disclose the identities of those that have been arrested, the identities of those that died will be made public after fuller investigations.”

Curiously, however, he said Jos had become calm, adding that the police, with the collaboration of other security agencies, had been able to restore normalcy to the troubled state capital.

But Agence France Presse reported that no fewer than 192 people have been killed in the violence.

Quoting a Muslim cleric, Alhaji Balarabe Dawud, the agency said, “We received 156 dead bodies this morning and another 36 this afternoon, in total, we have 192 dead bodies.”

The agency later quoted other sources that claimed death toll had reached 300.

Military and police patrol vans and a few ambulances were used to evacuate the dead and the wounded to the Jos University Teaching Hospital and the Plateau Specialist Hospital.

Displaced residents were seen to have taken refuge in police stations and the Police Staff College on the Bukuru highway.

It was gathered that soldiers intercepted a truck carrying about 15 persons who were covered with a tarpaulin in Dadin Kowa area and were said to be going to the city centre. They were taken to the police headquarters.

Some other suspects were said to have been arrested in military uniform.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of operations, Mr. John Amadu, arrived Jos in the mid-afternoon of Tuesday in a police helicopter to take charge of operations. He later toured parts of the disturbed areas in the helicopter.

Early on Tuesday morning, the disturbances had started building up in Bukuru and by mid-morning it had escalated into a full-blown crisis. Sounds of sporadic shootings rented the air as billows of smoke rose from every corner of Jos metropolis.

Burning of houses was also witnessed across the city as Muslims did not spare houses belonging to Christians, especially where they predominate and vice versa.

Many worship centres were also razed as soldiers searched for arms in churches.

Motorists coming into the city were stopped at Maraba on the outskirts of Jos as the rampaging youths barricaded entrance to the state capital.

Sunday’s violence started after an argument over the rebuilding of homes destroyed in the 2008 clashes, the worst fighting between Muslims and Christians in years in the country.

Meanwhile, former Governors Solomon Lar and Joshua Dariye met with Jang with the promise to work with him towards the restoration of normalcy in the state capital.

The meeting, which was hosted by Lar in his house on Monday evening, was aimed at working out modalities to avert future crisis.

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