Youths invade mosque in Nigerian riot city

Two thousand angry youths stormed a mosque in the riot-torn city of Jos as a top parliament official appealed for an end to religious troubles that have left hundreds dead, witnesses said.

Thousands of troops and police patrolled the streets of the central city Monday after the clashes between rival Christians and Muslims however and a relative calm led to an easing of a curfew, AFP reported.

Youths entered the main mosque as the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, made an appeal to Muslim leaders for calm.

The youths shouted for the removal of Plateau state governor Jonah Jang and his government before they left after an intervention by Muslim leaders and the mosque was coordonned off.

"You must put your anger in your pockets," Bankole told them.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also called for calm and restraint in city. OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed "deep regret" over the clashes and "appealed to Nigerians to shun violence and embrace dialogue, tolerance and the rule of law as means of resolving disputes."

Thousands of troops patrolled the streets, many of them sent as reinforcements on Sunday and Monday, and searched passers-by.

But a 24-hour curfew in four districts of Jos that saw the worst of the fighting has been replaced with a night-time curfew applied to the city as a whole, Plateau State information commissioner Nuhu Gagara told AFP.

"The situation has improved in the state capital," he said, adding that the curfew might be further relaxed Tuesday.

The state government has said about 200 people died in the clashes, though other sources have given a toll twice the official figure.

A Red Cross official spoke of "well over 300 people killed" and Khaled Abubakar, an imam at the central mosque, and another Muslim official spoke of about 400 bodies taken to the mosque. A Christian clergyman spoke of "several hundred" killed.

Corpses that were still visible in large numbers on Sunday had all been removed from the streets of the town and buried by Monday.

Inhabitants ventured back onto the streets, though in smaller numbers than usual.

Security also has been beefed up in three major cities in the north -- Kadfor fear that violence could spread. Residents of Kaduna and Katsina reported increased police patrols on Monday morning.

"Our men have been put on the alert to nip any breakdown in law and order in the bud," Kano State police spokesman Baba Mohammed told AFP.

"It is important that this thing doesn't go beyond Jos and we need you to tell the youth this," Bankole told Muslim leaders at the mosque meeting.

Thousands of people sought refuge in churches, mosques and army and police barracks after the Jos troubles, according to the Red Cross.

The clashes were triggered by a rumour Friday that the majority-Muslim All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) had lost a local election to the mainly Christian Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), according to a police spokesman.

Muslims and Christians for the most part cohabit peacefully in Nigeria.

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