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Religious Riots Shake N. Nigeria
Saturday October 13, 2001 7:10 PM
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - Bands of Muslims and Christians rioted Saturday in the streets of the northern city of Kano, burning places of worship and killing an unknown number of people, witnesses and police said.
The spark behind the latest outbreak of interreligious violence in northern Nigeria was not immediately clear. The rioting came a day after Muslim fundamentalists clashed with police during a street protest against the U.S.-led airstrikes on Afghanistan.
By late Saturday morning, witnesses counted at least eight bodies on the streets of Sabon Gari, a neighborhood in the northern part of the city, some 435 miles northeast of the commercial capital, Lagos. There were unconfirmed reports of many more dead.
Some residents were taking shelter in police stations while many others were holed up inside their homes. Local journalists said angry mobs had at least partially burned several churches and mosques.
Speaking in a telephone interview, Kano's police commissioner Yakubu Bello Uba said he had ordered his officers to shoot protesters and combatants ``on sight.''
On Friday, police fired tear gas to break up a protest by hundreds of angry Nigerian Muslim youths against the airstrikes on Afghanistan. Several people were injured and three vehicles - including a police truck - were burned.
Chanting ``Americans are infidels'' and ``Leave bin Laden alone,'' the marchers gathered after Friday afternoon Muslim prayers in Kano.
The U.S. began its military campaign against Afghanistan on Oct. 7 after the ruling Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden and his lieutenants to the United States. Bin Laden is the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Protesters said Friday's rally was organized by the Muslim Revolutionaries, a group believed to be an offshoot of a fundamentalist movement led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zak Zaky, a well-known Islamic politician and cleric who was jailed in the 1990s for calling for a fundamentalist Islamic state in Nigeria.
Police and military reinforcements had been deployed since Thursday in anticipation of anti-American protests by groups in the northern Nigerian cities of Kaduna, Gusau and Kano, where Muslims are a majority.
A few Nigerian Muslim clerics have publicly condemned the military campaign in Afghanistan.
Muslim-Christian tensions have exploded in the north of Africa's most populous country, fueling violence that has killed thousands. The latest outbreak of fighting in early September in the city of Jos left at least 165 confirmed dead, but observers say that three times as many may have died.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), October 13, 2001