The death toll in central Nigeria from an intensified series of violent attacks along religious and ethnic lines continues to rise after reports that Muslim youths killed a Christian family of eight on Sunday.
Sometime after the attack on the family, journalists were taken by a Plateau state spokesman to a house in the village of Tatu, where the hacked bodies of the eight family members were still lying on the blood-soaked floor, according to Reuters.
It is estimated that more than 50 people have been killed since Aug. 29 when youths identified as Christians attacked a group of Muslims as they gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan in the city of Jos, capital of Plateau state.
Also on Sunday, in a marketplace in another Plateau village, a bomb that failed to detonate was found by police. It was determined that a battery that ran flat was the reason for the failure, Reuters reported.
Late last week, Christian and Muslim leaders tried to facilitate a resolution after a clash between youths from rival camps killed at least 42 in Dusu Uku area Thursday. Muslim group Jamatu Nasril Islam said 22 members of the community were dead, and Christian group Stefanos Foundation counted 20 dead on their side, according to AFP.
Political and religious leaders have called for a Christian-Muslim dialogue to ease tensions in Jos, the capital city of Plateau State that divides the country’s predominantly Christian south and largely Muslim north.
The long-standing violence between extremists, sometimes referred to by officials as gangs, from different ethnic and religious groups is estimated to have killed more than 200 and displaced more than 40,000 people after churches were bombed last Christmas Eve. More than 2,000 people have been killed since 2001, according to reports.
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who is the national president of Christian Association of Nigeria, said that although it appears the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, is taking steps to rid terrorism, the government must now take urgent steps to protect lives and property of Christians in the north, where they are a minority.
Oritsejafor made the statement after Jonathan said his government’s investigation into the latest vandalism and burning of two churches has produced some leads, according to Vanguard Media out of Nigeria.
Christian churches in north and central Nigeria have fallen victim to discrimination, intimidation and dreadful violence “fueled by Islamic terrorism and expansionism,” according to the Stefanos Foundation. Muslims also allege discrimination in the southern parts where Christians form a majority.
In May 2011, Jonathan, who is reported to be a Christian, became the elected president of the country. In May 2010, Jonathan had succeeded the presidency after the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua.