Nigeria: Violence, unrest and uncertainty

Nigeria is coming to terms with a spate of violent attacks that have left hundreds dead and a political system mired in uncertainty following the return of ailing president Umaru Yar’Adua.

We will attempt to unpick the complex wider political situation and make sense of this month’s events at a Frontline Club debate on April 20. But in the meantime, here’s what has happened so far…

Nigerian police said this week they would attempt to prosecute 162 people for their role in sectarian clashes in which hundreds were killed earlier this month near the city of Jos.

The Times put the death toll at 500 and reported that Muslim groups targeted Christian families in night-time attacks and by setting animal traps. The area has a long history of unrest: September 2001 saw as many as 1,000 killed in riots and battles between Muslims and Christians killed up to 700 people in 2004, according to The Times.

A Plateau state police spokesman says:

Forty-one of the suspects are to be charged with terrorism and culpable homicide, which are punishable by death.

Benjamin Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, was in no doubt that the attack was "systematic and quite well organised". He told Channel 4 News:

It didn’t leave the villagers with any chance to escape at all. If you look at the cuts, you will see that they are sharp knives and most of the cuts are at the back and neck. And quite a number of heads were severed from the body. So, they are really fighters in my opinion.

Watch C4’s interview clip with the Archbishop here:

And this is Al Jazeera’s report from Jos shortly after the attacks…

Here are some more links on the background to the conflict: