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Survivors of Sunday’s bloody massacre in central Nigeria have been reliving their ordeal

One man in a village near the city of Jos said he saw the bodies of whole families, including women and babies, killed with machetes and burnt.  Another said he had found his granddaughter hacked to death. Women, children and even babies, were among the hundreds killed in the ethnic violence between Christian and Muslims.

Growing religious hatred, political and ethnic rivalries and increasing poverty have led to two outbursts of savage violence this year. The weekend bloodshed, when Christian villages near Jos were attacked before dawn, was deemed a revenge attack for one less than two months before in which Muslims were targeted. Community leader in Dogo Nahawa village, Gabriel, saw his five-year-old granddaughter hacked to death with a machete. A gang of Fulani-speaking men started shooting a machine gun at dawn to scare people out of their houses, where they were cut down with machetes, he said. "People were afraid,” he told the BBC. “People were running helter-skelter because they had never heard something like this before... People that were running were macheted." Pepi, another witness, and his wife hid in the toilet when they were awoken by the gunfire. “I saw all the wives, they killed them, cut, cut their bodies. Put fire on them. And the babies. They killed all the children,” he said. He told how they had heard their neighbours crying out, then silence. "Screaming, real screaming. Babies and the mothers all. Crying! Shouting! Later I hear no more."

On Sunday there were mass burials and scores more bodies were laid out in the streets of the three attacked villages waiting to be buried.  There is no agreement on the number of people killed in the clashes. But an adviser to the mainly Christian state government, Dan Manjang, told Agence France Press news agency: "We have been able to make 95 arrests but at the same time over 500 people have been killed in this heinous act." Gregory Yenlong, a spokesman for the government, blamed officials for security lapses. "I can't understand [why] people are killed, people arrested, for such acts, and they are not being prosecuted, he said. “The Nigerian system, something's wrong with it.” "I can't understand [why] a governor of a state cannot direct a police officer to arrest and prosecute a crime." The International Committee of the Red Cross said hundreds of people have fled from Jos in the aftermath of the fighting.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children