DOGO NAHAWA, Nigeria - The killers showed no mercy: They didn't spare women and children, or even a 4-day-old baby, from their machetes. Yesterday, Nigerian women wailed in the streets as a dump truck carried dozens of bodies past burned-out homes toward a mass grave.
Rubber-gloved workers pulled ever-smaller bodies from the dump truck and tossed them into the mass grave. A crowd began singing a hymn with the refrain, "Jesus said I am the way to heaven." As the grave filled, the grieving crowd sang: "Jesus, show me the way."
At least 200 people, most of them Christians, were slaughtered on Sunday, according to residents, aid groups and journalists. The local government gave a figure more than twice that amount, but offered no casualty list or other information to substantiate it.
The horrific violence comes after sectarian killings in this region in January left more than 300 dead, most of them Muslim.
Sunday's bloodshed in three mostly Christian villages appeared to be reprisal attacks, said Red Cross spokesman Robin Waubo.
Nigeria is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. The recent bloodshed has been happening in central Nigeria, in towns that lie along the country's religious fault line. It is Nigeria's "middle belt," where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands.
Barely controlled rage spilled over in the village as those gathered for the mass burial attacked a Muslim journalist covering the event. The journalist escaped, but others made threats against reporters.
The killings add to the tally of thousands who have already perished in Africa's most populous country in the last decade because of religious and political frictions.
The killings in Dogo Nahawa, three miles south of the region's main city of Jos, began early Sunday.
Chuwanga Gyang, 30, said he heard a gunshot and left his house through the back door but stopped when he realized that the attackers were shooting to herd fleeing villagers toward another group of attackers carrying machetes.
He recalled climbing into a tree and watching as villagers were killed and the attackers set homes alight over the course of 90 minutes. The attackers asked people "Who are you?" in Fulani, a language used mostly by Muslims, and killed those who did not answer back in Fulani, he said.
Plateau State spokesman Gregory Yenlong said police are seeking to arrest Saleh Bayari, the regional leader of the Fulanis, alleging Bayari had made comments that incited the slaughter. He gave no details.
The chairman of the local Fulani organization denied that his people were involved in the violence.