Nigerian army warns troops in volatile central region
Jos, Nigeria (AFP) Feb 2, 2011
Nigeria's army chief on Wednesday warned soldiers against abuses after a new deployment arrived in the country's volatile central region, where troops have been accused of firing on civilians.
Nearly 900 soldiers arrived this week in the area hit by deadly sectarian clashes to replace an existing deployment, which faced allegations of bias against Christians and was accused of opening fire on protesting students last weekend.
Soldiers serving in such task forces are regularly rotated and it was unclear whether the change was the direct result of the accusations.
Lieutenant General Onyeabor Azubuike Ihejirika, the army chief of staff, addressed the troops in the city of Jos, telling them rules of engagement must be followed.
"For the period you are here, you have to do your job professionally," he said. "I would not tolerate any form of religious bias or ethnic bias in carrying out your job."
He called their duties "very important to the survival of Nigeria."
The army chief later told journalists that a number of AK-47 rifles and other weapons had been seized over the past week.
Jos and the surrounding region has been hit by waves of violence between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups, and the violence has intensified in recent weeks ahead of April elections.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement last week saying more than 200 people had been killed in central Plateau state, where Jos is the capital, since Christmas Eve, when a string of bomb blasts left dozens dead.
Plateau forms part of the middle belt region between the country's mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
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China said Tuesday that a referendum in southern Sudan, in which voters overwhelmingly chose to secede from the north, was an "important step" towards a lasting peace in the oil-rich country. Nearly 99 percent of south Sudanese voted to separate from the north in the landmark January 9-15 referendum, according to full preliminary results released Sunday. Chinese foreign ministry spokesma ... read more
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