NIGERIA: At least six dead in sectarian violence

Friday, December 14, 2007

At least six people have been killed and 30 critically injured since clashes between Muslim and Christian communities in the north-central Nigerian city of Bauchi broke out on 11 December, Red Cross workers and residents said.

Some 3,000 people have fled their homes in the area of the fighting, witnesses said. The government has ordered a 9pm to 6am curfew and closed the local university, which has often been the site of violent clashes.

Fighting started 11 December and continued to the next day, following a dispute over the planned construction of a mosque at a secondary school in Yelwa - a mixed Muslim and Christian neighbourhood of the city.

“We have recovered six dead bodies," Adamu Abubakar, Red Cross director in Bauchi, told IRIN by telephone.

“The situation is still tense and hundreds of people have fled their homes and are now seeking refuge in police barracks,” Abubakar said.

Mu'azu Hardawa, a journalist, said he saw one charred body in a gutter. He said homes, vehicles and other structures have been burned.

“I counted 20 houses, eight cars, five motorcycles, two mosques and two churches all burnt in the violence," said Hardawa, who accompanied Bauchi state governor, Isa Yuguda, on a visit to the neighbourhood on 12 December.

Hardawa said on the second day of the violence people were fighting using locally made weapons such as machetes, daggers and clubs.

People have fled their homes for fear of getting caught up in the fighting, Godwin Agbara, a local journalist, told IRIN by phone from the police barracks where he and his family are staying. “I left my home because it is not safe for me to stay as tension is still high. I can’t risk my life and that of my family.”

Agbara said people are sleeping in the open. "The National Emergency Management Agency has brought mattresses and blankets while Red Cross provides medical supplies but we feed ourselves which is not easy."

A government official said troops have been deployed in the city, which has a population of about 1 million and is in the state of Bauchi. “Apart from the curfew military troops have been deployed from Gombe, Plateau and Adamawa states to patrol the city and ensure the return of normalcy," Muhammad Abdullahi, the governor’s spokesman, told IRIN by phone from Bauchi.

Source: IRIN