At least 11 people have been killed in an attack on a village near the central Nigerian city of Jos, a region where hundreds have died in sectarian violence this year, state radio said on Wednesday.

Plateau State radio said the attack on the village in the Riyom area, 30 km (19 miles) south of Jos, took place at about 1:30 am (0030 GMT), citing the Riyom local council chairman. The report said women and children were among the dead.

“We have heard that a village was attacked last night,” a Red Cross spokesman in Jos told Reuters, adding the agency had sent a team of volunteers to the village.

The army, which has been enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew in and around Jos since January, could not confirm any attack.

“Up until now the commander on the ground in the area has not sent any report,” army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Galadima Shekari said.

Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital, lies at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south, a region known as the “Middle Belt”.

Fierce competition for control of fertile farmlands between Christian and animist indigenous groups and Muslim settlers from the north have repeatedly triggered unrest in the region over the past decade.

Four days of clashes between Muslim and Christian mobs killed more than 400 people around Jos in January, according to local community leaders.

Violence flared again 10 days ago with attacks on the mostly Christian villages of Dogo Nahawa, Zot and Ratsat just south of Jos, in which hundreds more people are feared to have been killed.

The unrest comes at a difficult time for Nigeria, with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan trying to consolidate power while ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, who recently returned from three months in a Saudi hospital, is too sick to govern.

Jonathan is also having to deal with resurgent unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta, where militants on Monday detonated two car bombs outside a government building.

Pope Benedict, the United States and the United Nations have all condemned the violence in central Nigeria and urged the authorities to work for a peaceful resolution.

Retaliatory attacks are not uncommon and Jonathan put the security forces on red alert after the attacks south of Jos a week and a half ago to try to prevent unrest from spreading to neighbouring states.

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