P.M. News (Lagos)

23 November 2002

Nigeria: Death Toll Hits 100 in Kaduna Riot

Kaduna — About 100 people have died in Kaduna, following the riot which broke out Wednesday over a newspaper article on the Miss World Beauty Pageant, allegedly denigrating Prophet Mohammed (SAW). The riot raged on today.

Corpses of victims of the unrest littered the northern city as the police and soldiers tried to contain the rioters.

There were reports of sporadic shooting in the city as enraged Muslim youths attacked Christians and set churches ablaze to protest what they described as an assault on their faith. Non-indigenes were also not spared, as the youths showed their anger.

P.M.News reporter in Kaduna said he counted as many as 21 corpses on the road as he looked for the nearest business centre to file his report.

Investigations revealed that rioting was still going on in the city despite the imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the city by the state Governor, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi. The campaign office of Governor Makarfi was also burnt along with the vehicles therein.

A senior police officer in Kaduna who spoke on efforts to contain the riots said it is still too early to know the number of people killed as police and soldiers try to contain the rioters.

P.M.News gathered that a police constable, Innocent Ameh, was shot and seriously wounded at Kabala Constain where fighting was still going on at press time. At Kabala Doki, also in Kaduna metropolis, rioters were reportedly firing at policemen trying to enforce the curfew. A lot of the injured were rushed to Barau Dikko Hospital, where they are currently being treated.

District Head of Kabala Doki, Muhammadu Kabala, confirmed youths resistance to the curfew. He said many people have been wounded and rushed to the hospital.

The Kaduna State Police Command has, meanwhile, arrested 40 of the rioters, while intermittent broadcasts are being made on radio urging residents to remain calm.

The Kaduna violence has triggered tension in other parts of the north, where thousands of people have died in sectarian riots in the past three years.

Security forces were expected to be on heightened alert in northern Nigeria's biggest city of Kano - a hotbed of sectarian unrest - during Muslim prayers today.

The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo appealed for calm and warned that anyone found fomenting disorder would be decisively dealt with.

The rioting was the latest crisis to befall Nigeria's plans to hold the Miss World contest, already a swirl in protests over the sentencing of Muslim women in northern Nigeria to death by stoning for adultery.

Trouble first flared on Wednesday over a report in This Day, an independent newspaper, which claimed the Prophet Mohammad would have married one of the Miss World beauty queens. But it quickly turned into a general protest against the December 7 contest in the national capital, Abuja.

The fundamentalist Nigerian Muslim Ummah, an umbrella group of Islamic clerics and scholars, declared a "serious religious emergency" and issued a statement calling on the government to stop the pageant.

On Thursday, in its first reaction to the violence, the Obasanjo government said it was taking necessary steps to punish those associated with the newspaper report, "which without doubt exceeded the bounds of responsible journalism by making (a) provocative publication on the Holy Prophet".

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