Nigeria. November 20. Christian villages have been attacked and over 50 Christians killed in the latest upsurge of violence in Plateau State in Nigeria's Middle Belt.
Three separate attacks on Christian villages during October resulted in over 50 deaths and the destruction of livestock and property. Hundreds have died in previous clashes in the state during 2002. The increased level of violence has prompted the governor of Plateau State to institute a shoot-on-sight policy for security forces in an attempt to curtail the violence.
These attacks are normally portrayed in the Nigerian media as ethnic clashes between Hausa/Fulani migrants and local indigenous groups. However, there is a crucially important religious dimension as well. The Hausa/Fulani migrants are Muslims while the local indigenous groups are mainly Christian. The Muslim migrants are well armed and are often reported to be supported by Islamic extremists from Niger and Chad. As well as killing Christians, the Muslim attackers destroy churches and target Christian businesses and property. They regard themselves as engaging in jihad with the aim of achieving political and economic dominance in the province.
Plateau State and its capital Jos were long regarded as places where Christians and Muslims co-existed in peace. However, this peaceful reputation was shattered in September 2001 when over 1000 people died in clashes between Muslims and Christians. Since then there has been ongoing conflict that has included the attacking of Christian villages by Muslim settlers.