Two men were killed in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday when explosives they were carrying on a motorbike went off, preventing what local residents said was an attempted attack on a Christian community.
More than 200 people have been killed in sectarian violence since late last year in and around Jos, which lies in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” between the mostly-Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
Christian youths angered by what they took to be an attempted attack by members of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic group set fire to the corpses of the two men in the Nasarawa Gwom area of Jos, police commissioner Abdulrahman Akano said.
“The explosives killed the two men. They died instantly,” Akano told Reuters. Some reports said the attack had been meant for a nearby church, but Akano said it was impossible to say where the men had been headed.
There have been frequent clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs in villages around Jos since a series of bombs were detonated during Christmas Eve celebrations in December, killing scores of people.
Tensions are rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with migrants and settlers from the Muslim north.
The violence is largely contained within one region of Africa’s most populous nation and does not on its own threaten to derail presidential and parliamentary elections in April, though the area is a potential flashpoint during local polls.