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Children slaughtered in Nigeria religious massacre

Young children and women made up many of the 500 people reported dead after religious fighting in Nigeria. A four-day-old baby was among those killed, people living near the city of Jos, the scene of the weekend violence, told Associated Press news agency.  Mass burials of the victims are being carried out today, said Plateau State spokesman Gregory Yenlong as he urged people to "remain calm and be patient as the government steps up security to protect lives and property in this state".

Many of the dead in the villages of Zot and Dogo-Nahawa are women and children. "We saw mainly those who are helpless, like small children and then the older men, who cannot run, these were the ones that were slaughtered," said Mark Lipdo, from the Christian charity Stefanos Foundation. Troops have been sent out and local officials said dozens of arrests had been made. "We have been able to make 95 arrests but at the same time over 500 people have been killed in this heinous act,” an adviser to the Christian-dominated Plateau state government, Dan Manjang, told Agence France Presse news agency.

Three mostly Christian villages were attacked by rioters armed with machetes. It appears to be a revenge attack after several hundred people, mostly Muslims were killed in January violence around Jos. Jos lies between the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria and its largely Christian south and local tension between Muslims and Christians has a long history there. But poverty and access to resources such as land often lie at the root of the violence, correspondents say. The attackers had fired guns as they broke a curfew and entered the villages before dawn on Sunday. "The shooting was just meant to bring people from their houses and then when people came out they started cutting them with machetes," Peter Jang told Reuters news agency.

Witnesses said villagers were caught in fishing nets and animal traps as they tried to escape and were then hacked to death. Mud huts were also set on fire. Many of the victims were hacked with machetes, doctors said. "We will undertake strategic initiatives to confront and defeat these roving bands of killers," acting President, Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement. "While it is too early to state categorically what is responsible for this renewed wave of violence, we want to inform Nigerians that the security services are on top of the situation."

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children