Anti-riot policemen patrol the streets of Jos in central Nigeria, 2008. Sectarian violence that killed at least nine people led authorities in central Nigeria on Sunday to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the city of Jos. (AFP)

KANO – Clashes erupted between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria’s central city of Jos Sunday, killing at least 10 people and prompting the government to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew, residents and officials said.

The fighting started when Christian youths protested the building of a mosque in Christian-dominated Nassarawa Gwom district, where houses and vehicles were also set alight, residents said.

“Ten bodies have so far been brought to the hospital, some with gunshot wounds,” a nurse at the Jos University Teaching Hospital told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Six wounded people were also admitted, all with deep cuts, he said.

A journalist in the city, a flashpoint for inter-religious violence, said he had seen nine bodies in the hospital and several wounded, some by machetes.

Several houses and vehicles were also torched, said the journalist, Musa Habibu.

“I was at the Jos University hospital where I saw nine dead bodies and six people injured with machete cuts on admission,” he told AFP.

“I can see billows of dark smoke from burning houses in Nassarawa Gwom.”

Three bodies had been taken to a mosque, said resident Mohammed Bashir.

“I saw three bodies at the central mosque where they were brought with bullet wounds. I can still hear gunshots an hour into the curfew,” he said.

Authorities in Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital, confirmed the clashes but could not say how many people were killed or wounded.

“I can’t give any casualty details because we are still awaiting a comprehensive report on the violence,” state information commissioner Gregory Yenlong told AFP.

“The government has placed a 12-hour curfew, from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, on the city following some violence in Nassarawa Gwom district of the city,” he said.

Plateau police spokesman Mohammed Lerema said the situation had been brought under control. “We have arrested 35 suspects, including five in military uniforms,” he said.

The trouble began when Christian youths protested the building of a mosque by a wealthy Muslim in Nassarawa Gwom, resident David Maiyaki said.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country of some 150 million people, is evenly divided by a mainly Muslim-dominated north and mainly Christian south.

Jos and other central and northern areas have been plagued by religious violence.

In November 2008 hundreds of people were killed in Jos in two days of fighting triggered by a rumor that majority-Muslim All Nigerian Peoples Party had lost a local election to the mainly Christian Peoples Democratic Party.

Soldiers and policemen were brought in to restore order. State officials put the death toll at about 200 but other sources gave a toll twice that figure.

Last month at least 70 people were killed in violent clashes between security forces and members of a radical Islamist sect in the northern Bauchi State.

The Kala-Kato sect has lead religious uprisings that claimed thousands of lives in the northern cities of Kano and Yola in 1980 and 1992.

The sect abhors modernity, including Western-style education and medicine, and bans television and radio in its members’ homes, also rejecting any literature except the Koran.

It is estimated to have several thousand followers.

A similar sect, Boko Haram — which means “Western education is a sin”, led an insurrection in July in nearby Borno State when at least 800 people were killed as security forces crushed the violence. — AFP