Nigerian police arrest 164 over massacres

Nigerian police have arrested 164 people over a recent massacre near the central city of Jos and plan to charge most with offences ranging from terrorism to arson, authorities say.

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“In its resolve to deal decisively with perpetrators of violence in the nation, the Nigeria police has concluded investigation into the mass killings in Dogo Nahawa, Rasat and Jeji villages…which occurred on 7th March 2010,” police said in a statement on Sunday.

In all, 164 suspects were arrested, but two of them will serve as prosecution witnesses, according to police.

It said 41 are to be charged with terrorism and culpable homicide while 121 face multiple offences of unlawful possession of firearms, rioting, arson and causing grievous hurt.

Homicide can result in a death sentence, while terrorism is punishable by a life jail term.

Hundreds of people – mainly women and children from predominantly Christian communities – have been killed in the past two weeks in villages near the city of Jos.

Police say over 100 were killed with machetes, while government officials insist more than 500 were massacred by the nomadic Fulani.

Purely sectarian motives questioned

On Wednesday, Muslim herdsmen disguised as soldiers butchered around a dozen Christians in two villages near Jos, setting some of them ablaze, but some residents said the killings were part of a spiralling feud between the Fulani and Berom, who are farmers, which was sparked by the theft of cattle, rather than for religious motives.

Others said it was reprisal for the killings of more than 300 mainly Muslims in January in and around the same city.

Police also said 213 suspects have already been charged with various offences connected to the January violence and are being held in various prisons across the country.

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