LAGOS, Nigeria -- Muslim-Christian violence raged in Nigeria's northern city of Jos on Saturday, where frightened witnesses described dozens dead, churches burned and residents fleeing their homes or banding together for protection.
Authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew to try to stem the fighting, which broke out Friday evening at the time of Muslim prayers. Terrified residents said the bloodletting persisted unabated Saturday.
"Put us in your prayers!," said Mary Dung, a Christian resident of a neighborhood in southern Jos. By telephone, Dung described smoke rising from burning homes around the city. Bands of Christian and Muslim young men were exchanging gunfire on her street, which she said had been split between Muslims on one side and Christians on the other.
"One of my neighbors was shot in front of my face," she said.
The introduction of Sharia, or Islamic law, in several northern states last year sparked bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims. Hundreds were killed. Jos, a hilltop city of 4 million people whose government leaders are mainly Christian, has rejected the possibility of implementing Sharia.
Isa Abdulsalam, a Jos-based journalist with the Guardian daily, said he counted 10 bodies in one venture outside. Other residents said they saw dozens.
Major roads in Jos were blocked by youths armed with guns, machetes, clubs and other weapons, other witnesses said. The city's state hospitals were filling up with wounded, Abdulsalam said.
Two churches -- an Assemblies of God and Church of Christ -- were torched during the rampage Friday in the mostly Muslim middle-class neighborhood of Kwararafa, the Lagos newspaper This Day reported.
There were unconfirmed reports of a mosque burned in the Nassarawa neighborhood where both Christians and Muslims live. Muslim-Christian fighting was also taking place in the rugged, impoverished neighborhood of Congo-Russia.
Many residents were taking refuge in police stations, while others hid inside homes and offices.
The immediate cause of the fighting was unclear, although religious tensions in the city had been rising following the recent appointment of a Muslim Hausa politician as chairman of a state poverty-alleviation committee.
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