Sectarian violence kills at least 93 in Nigeria
Updated: 2006-02-23 08:52
Bodies littered the streets of the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha on
Wednesday as the death toll from days of Christian-Muslim violence across this
volatile West African nation rose to at least 93.
chase angry mobs in a street in Onitsha, Nigeria, Wednesday, Feb. 22,
2006. Bodies littered the streets of the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha
on Wednesday as the death toll from days of Christian-Muslim violence
across the volatile West African nation rose to at least 93. The sectarian
violence was sparked by deadly weekend protests against cartoon
caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. [AP]
The sectarian violence was sparked by deadly weekend protests against
newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. It is the worst to hit Nigeria
since 2004, when Muslim-Christian skirmishes in the north killed more than 700
"I've counted more than 20 people killed today," Onitsha resident Isotonu
Achor said after gangs of rioters armed with machetes and shotguns poured
through the mainly Christian city.
"Major streets are littered with bodies of people killed today, most of them
Other witnesses also said they saw at least 20 dead. Thirty people were
killed in Onitsha a day earlier.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with more than 130 million people, is
roughly divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a mainly Christian
south. Thousands of people have died in religious violence since 2000.
In Onitsha, residents said soldiers fire on a mob of ethnic Igbo Christians
that tried to enter the military barracks after reports that ethnic Hausa
Muslims sheltering in the barracks had attacked a nearby primary school, killing
a number of children.
The claims could not be verified, and it was unclear if the soldiers killed
anyone in the mob.
The deaths brought to at least 96 the number of people killed in Nigeria
since Saturday, when fighting first erupted in the northern city of Maiduguri
over the caricatures. That clash razed 30 churches and claimed the lives of 18
people, mostly Christians.
Similar violence followed Monday and Tuesday in the northern city of Bauchi,
where witnesses and Red Cross officials say 25 people were killed when Muslim
mobs attacked Christians there.
Police and soldiers patrolled Bauchi on Wednesday.
Tuesday's violence in Onitsha appeared to come as a reprisal to the killings
in Maiduguri and Bauchi, which like most of northern Nigeria are dominated by
Muslims. Onitsha, like most of the south, is dominated by Christians.
Achor, who works with a marketing firm, said the city shut down.
"Schools have quickly closed and thousands of people carrying machetes, some
with guns, are rushing toward the military barracks. It could be bloody," he
Regional Gov. Chris Ngige declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew and ordered police
reinforcements to the trading city.
Speaking in the capital, Abuja, police spokesman Haz Iwendi confirmed there
were deaths during the previous day's violence in Onitsha and Bauchi but said
authorities were still investigating.
"We want to distinguish between bodies actually counted and people who may
merely be missing," he said.
Bauchi Gov. Adamu Muazu said on local television Tuesday night that the
violence was fueled by allegations a Christian school teacher had desecrated the
Quran. He said the allegations proved unfounded.
The cartoons, first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September, have
triggered deadly protests around the world. One caricature shows Muhammad
wearing a bomb-shaped turban with an ignited fuse.
Islam widely holds that representations of Muhammad are banned for fear they
could lead to idolatry.
Other newspapers, including in Europe and the United States, have reprinted
the pictures, asserting their news value and the right to freedom of expression.