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630 Bodies Found in Secret Grave


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P.M. News (Lagos)

May 7, 2004
Posted to the web May 7, 2004

A mass grave containing more than 630 corpses have been discovered in Yelwa Village, Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State where Christians and Muslims have attacked themselves over grazing lands.

P.M.News gathered that the mass grave was discovered by villagers who alerted the authorities. But despite this, the police claimed that only 67 bodies have so far being discovered.

The conflict between the Tarok, who are mainly Christians and the nomadic Muslim cattle herders, is rooted in competing claims over the fertile lands of Southern Plateau.

The last three months have seen the bloodiest fighting in the region since Jos, Plateau State capital was torn apart by ethnic violence in 2001 that killed 1000 people.

There have been claims and counter claims by both combatants as to the cause of the present clashes but observers blamed the crisis on the inequitable land distribution system adopted by the state government.

While the mainly Christian Taroks accused the Muslim Fulani herders of using their herds of cattle to trample on their farmlands the fulanis accused the farmers of preventing their cattle from grazing.

As at Monday, local people in Shendam claimed that more than 410 people had been killed. A witness who said he escaped from the fighting zone on Sunday night claimed that more than 120 people had been killed in the clashes.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Tuesday ordered the Inspector-General of Police to deploy more policemen to the area to stop the clashes.

In response to the presidential directive, the IGP, Mr. Tafa Balogun, deployed an additional 600 anti-riot mobile policemen to the troubled zone to quell the clashes.

Sources from Shendam disclosed that thousands of houses belonging to the combatants had been destroyed while farmlands and cattle were also not spared.

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The state government has also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the area to stop the clashes.

Deputy-Governor of the state, Mr. Michael Botmang, announced the imposition of the curfew on Wednesday, saying policemen and soldiers in the area have the full authority of the state to shoot troublemakers at sight.

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