In a small predominately Muslim village located 18 miles (30 km) from the city of Jos, Nigeria, lies the Kuru Karama village, at the point where Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south meet. According to Human Rights Watch, armed men surrounded the small village, then hunted down and attacked Muslim residents, some of whom had sought refuge in homes and at a local mosque. Many were killed as they tried to flee and many others were burnt alive. In the aftermath, men, women and children would lose their lives. Over the course of four days Muslims and their Christian neighbors would be incited to kill indiscriminately. Nearby Christian villages were also invaded and its residents murdered, making the number of Nigerians killed over the 4-day period near 600.
Shehu Sani heads a coalition of 32 Nigerian civil and human rights groups called the Civil Rights Congress, which has identified close to 200 mobile text messages that urged Nigeria’s Muslim’s and their Christian brothers to kill or be killed; some went as far as to explain how to dispose and burn bodies of their victims. The texts spread rumors and inflamed tensions setting a scene to justify the burning of cars, houses, churches, and mosques.
Efforts are being made to pinpoint the source of the messages, which may prove to be futile. “The communication infrastructure has played a part in all major cases of recent atrocities in Africa… in transmitting vile messages,” said Chidi Odinkalu of the Open Society Initiative, citing the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya and most recently the riots in Uganda’s capital Kampala.
Many Nigerians have reported seeing men wearing what looked like military and police uniforms brandishing guns and machetes, believing they are the ones who committed these atrocities that pitted Christians against their Muslim neighbors. Nigerians insist this violence is not about religion, faith is respected; all agree it is about politics. The Jos region has a history of violence at election time and local politicians are accused of orchestrating this massacre to intimidate their rivals.