Religious violence flares in Nigeria

Fighting erupted on Tuesday when Muslim mobs targeted the city’s Christian minority in revenge for an attack earlier this month, in which a Christian militia killed at least 200 Muslims.

Police launched a crackdown, firing live rounds to quell the protests. By Thursday the fighting appeared to have abated, although tensions in the city remained high.

“I can assure you there is calm now. We have the situation under control. Whatever casualties are found now are people who were killed over the past two days,” said Kano’s police chief, Commissioner Abdul Ganiyu Dawodo.

Kano General Hospital’s morgue was so full that corpses had been lain outside under blankets. Distraught relatives argued fiercely with staff, who were barring them from going inside to look for their loved ones.

Angry family members claimed the reason the bodies were being concealed was to hide evidence that many had been shot by police.

The executive secretary of the Nigerian Red Cross branch in the city, Musa Abdullahi, said rescuers had counted 36 people killed and up to 500 injured.

But Christian groups claimed more than 400 Christians have been killed.

Kano’s disaster management agency said that 30,000 displaced people — mainly Christians — were being cared for in six camps.

The latest clashes started on Tuesday when a demonstration by Kano’s Muslims degenerated into mob violence.

Christian homes and businesses in the city were looted and burned, and many residents killed.

The rampage was in retaliation for the killing of at least 200 Muslims in Yelwa, in the central strife-torn Plateau State, by Christian militia on May 2.

The fighting has sparked fears that religious violence might erupt across Nigeria, the west African giant whose 130-million-strong population is split roughly evenly between the two faiths.

In 2000 and 2001 a string of sectarian clashes in Nigerian cities left many thousands dead on both sides of the divide.

Nigeria’s supreme Muslim leader, Sultan Muhammadu Maccido of Sokoto, called for an end to the violence.

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