(Edited from AP, Nigeria)Automatic weapons fire punctuated by screams erupted after dark Tuesday in a Nigerian city located near villages where massacres just two days ago left more than 200 people dead.

Nerves remained on edge, despite a long-standing dusk-til-dawn curfew in Jos, the capital of Plateau state. When sustained gunfire rang out for about three minutes, apparently from several automatic rifles, people ran screaming through the streets.

(Edited from AP, Nigeria)Automatic weapons fire punctuated by screams erupted after dark Tuesday in a Nigerian city located near villages where massacres just two days ago left more than 200 people dead.

 

Nerves remained on edge, despite a long-standing dusk-til-dawn curfew in Jos, the capital of Plateau state. When sustained gunfire rang out for about three minutes, apparently from several automatic rifles, people ran screaming through the streets.

 

More than 100 people, mostly women and children, sought shelter in a hotel where journalists and military commanders were staying. They wailed in terror as they heard gunshots coming one by one from outside. A ranking police officer in Jos said the shooting happened after people gathered in the street because of a suspicious truck in their neighborhood.

 

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the shooting with reporters, said soldiers opened fire to scare away the group.

 

However, human rights group say extrajudicial killings remain common in Nigeria – especially in situations of civil unrest.

 

Evarisitus Fuanbal, a former soldier who now works at Jos’ City Lodge Hotel, said the military officers staying at the hotel left Tuesday evening after receiving word of people assembling nearby.

 

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan had promised that the fighting would stop after more than 300 people, mostly Muslims, were slain in January. Some described Sunday’s massacres, which targeted Christians, as revenge for what happened in January. Others said the bloodshed has ethnic roots, with Fulani cattlemen wanting to take over nearby land.

 

Human Rights Watch urged Jonathan to provide protection for villages surrounding Jos, a central Nigerian city that has become the epicenter of violence in the region.

 

Jonathan fired his national security adviser Monday following the weekend violence.

“After the January killings, the villages should have been properly protected,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. “Clearly, previous efforts to tackle the underlying causes have been inadequate, and in the meantime the wounds have festered and grown deeper.”

 

Those who survived attacks on Sunday in three mostly Christian villages said security forces never provided them any protection.

 

Human Rights Watch researcher Corinne Dufka said authorities must protect the communities, bring the perpetrators to justice and address the root causes of violence.

 

Plateau state Gov. Jonah Jang told reporters Tuesday he received a tip that villagers saw suspicious people with weapons several hours before the massacres. Jang, who leads the Christian-controlled state government, said the army ignored him when he called to warn them.

 

The killings Sunday add to the tally of thousands who have already perished in Africa’s most populous country in the last decade due to religious and political frictions. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people. Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004. And more than 300 residents died during a similar uprising in 2008.

 

Nigeria is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. The recent bloodshed has been happening in central Nigeria, in Nigeria’s “middle belt,” where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands.

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