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Ethnic clashes, stampedes for jobs swell Nigeria’s death toll

KANO, Nigeria — Fulani Muslim herders attacked three Christian villages and killed more than 100 civilians last week, officials said Sunday. Hundreds of thatched-roof huts were set ablaze in the attacks.

Thousands of people have been killed in recent years in competition for land and water between mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers across Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

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Daniel Anyip, a local government official, said Sunday that more than 100 people were killed in the attacks on three villages Friday night.

Nuhu Moses, village chief of Chenshyi, said gunmen killed more than 50 residents there, including the pastor’s wife and children. He said the entire village in the southern part of Kaduna state was destroyed.

The Southern Kaduna Indigenes Progressive Forum blamed the government for failing to take action.

More than 100 other people were killed in similar attacks in neighboring Katsina state over the past week.

In a separate development Sunday, at least 16 Nigerians were killed in stampedes for government jobs in several cities, after hundreds of thousands were invited to apply for fewer than 5,000 positions, officials and activists said.

Interior Minister Abba Moro held the applicants responsible, saying they ‘‘lost their lives through their impatience.’’ Activists blamed his ministry and called for him to be fired. Emergency officials said the death toll could rise.

Nigerians are desperate for work, with official statistics putting the number of unemployed at nearly 41 million of the 170 million population. Unemployment among people less than 24 years old is even higher: 38 percent according to official statistics, and near 80 percent according to the World Bank.

Moro was quoted by the official News Agency of Nigeria as saying that many of the applicants ‘‘jumped through the fences of affected centers and did not conduct themselves in an orderly manner. ... This caused stampedes and made the environment unsecured.’’

The Education Rights Campaign blamed his ministry for inviting more applicants than centers could accommodate and not providing enough security.

The group, which called for Moro to be fired, gave the example of Abuja National Stadium, which has a capacity for 60,000. It said 65,000 applicants were invited and seven people died. The other deaths took place in Minna, Port Harcourt, Dutse, and Benin City, Moro said.

The group said scores of people were killed. The Nigerian Red Cross and some hospital officials said many seriously injured patients were admitted, and some could die.

About 500,000 applicants were invited to apply for 4,556 vacancies at the Nigeria Immigration Service, according to Education Rights.

Applicants said they each paid about $6, apparently for the right to take tests on Saturday at the application centers. The Education Rights Campaign said it was scandalous that the government had collected about $3 million from applicants and demanded the money be returned.

It said it was unconscionable that the government was ‘‘preying on the misery of hapless Nigerian youths, especially graduates who suffer years without gainful employment.’’

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies — 7 percent projected for this year — but corruption and mismanagement have failed to translate that growth into much-needed jobs.

The Nigerian Navy last week destroyed 260 illegal oil refineries and burned 100,000 tons of contraband fuel, but critics say this targeting of small-time criminals fails to confront the biggest culprits in oil thefts, the politically connected criminal cartels that sell on the international market.

On Sunday, Shell confirmed that an undersea pipeline leak has forced the closure of its Forcados export terminal, a major installation with capacity to handle 400,000 barrels of crude a day. The terminal was closed March 4 and the cause of the leak still is being investigated.

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