Riots break out again in central Nigerian town

AP News
Posted: Nov 04, 2011 1:28 PM
Riots break out again in central Nigerian town

Residents angered by an attack on a church rioted Friday in a central Nigeria town at the center of post-election violence earlier this year, with at least two people already dead, police officials said.

The riot began in rural Kaduna state in the town of Zonkwa, where 300 people died following the April 16 presidential election that saw sectarian violence. The area sits on the dividing line between Nigeria's mostly Christian south and Muslim north.

Red Cross official Umar Mairiga said young people demonstrated in the streets, mounted road blocks and burned tires, but no one appeared to have been hurt in the riot. The situation calmed down after soldiers deployed in the town, Mairiga said.

The violence apparently began after an attack on a church Thursday night in Tabak, a village near Zonkwa, Kaduna state police spokesman Aminu Lawan said. Two women died in that attack, while 12 others were wounded, police said.

The women had been participating in an overnight prayer vigil at St. Joseph Catholic Church, residents said.

The fighting comes ahead of Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice, when Muslims around the world slaughter sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son. Police elsewhere in the country had warned of violence ahead of the celebration in Nigeria, a country of more than 160 million.

Thousands have been killed in religious violence in the past decade in Nigeria.

In Kaduna alone, more than 2,000 died as the government moved to enact Islamic Shariah law in 2000. In 2002, rioting over a newspaper article suggesting the prophet Muhammad would have married a Miss World pageant contestant killed dozens here.

But the roots of the sectarian conflict across the north often have more to do with struggles for political and economic dominance.

In April, mobs armed with machetes and poison-tipped arrows took over streets in the capital Kaduna and the state's rural countryside after election officials declared President Goodluck Jonathan the winner. Followers of his main opponent, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, quickly alleged the vote had been rigged, though observers largely declared the vote fair.


Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed to this report.