March 9th, 2010
03:33 PM ET

Explainer: What's behind slaughter in Nigeria?

The Plateau State in central Nigeria is home to 50 ethnic groups and simmering local tensions.

Hilary Whiteman

Gangs of machete-wielding Muslims have been blamed for the weekend slaughter of hundreds of Christian villagers in Nigeria, but analysts say it would be wrong to assume the conflict was rooted in religion.

Men armed with gun, knives and machetes launched a pre-dawn attack on the villages of Dogo Nahawa, Zot, and Ratsat, south of the city of Jos, on Sunday, setting fire to homes and killing at least two hundred people.

The government, led by acting President Goodluck Jonathan, has issued a red alert for the region amid fears of revenge attacks and calls for justice by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.

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