The death toll following clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs in the central Nigerian city of Jos has risen to around 400.

Sporadic bursts of gunfire rattled the city as security forces tried to prevent more clashes.

Rival ethnic and religious mobs have burned homes, shops, mosques and churches in fighting triggered by a disputed local election in a city at the crossroads of Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian south.

It is the country's worst unrest for years.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the main mosque where members of the Muslim community have been bringing their dead.

A Red Cross worker said yesterday he had counted 218 bodies awaiting burial in the building.

The overall death toll was expected to be much higher with some victims already buried and others taken to hospitals and places of worship.

Soldiers patrolled on foot and in jeeps to enforce a 24-hour curfew imposed on the worst-hit areas.

Those who ventured out walked with their hands in the air to show they were unarmed.

Overturned and burnt-out vehicles littered the streets while several churches, a block of houses and an Islamic school in one neighbourhood were gutted by fire.