10 November 2011

Nigeria: Religious Riot - Kafanchan On Fire

Three peopl were killed and many others injured following an outbreak of religious violence in Kafanchan town of Jema'a local government area of Kaduna State.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the violence has created tension in the town. Two women were among the dead while two others are said to have received bullet wounds.

Kafanchan town was one of the most affected areas in Kaduna State during the violence in some parts of the North after the 2011 elections.

When contacted, the police area commander, Adam Elihu, declined comment but the Kaduna State commissioner of police, Ballah Magaji Nasarawa, confirmed the violence and said "the command was still gathering reports on the situation and will confirm the number of casualties later".

LEADERSHIP gathered that the violence started at about 10am yesterday following the discovery of a corpse at Ungwan Katsit, behind the Emir of Jama'a's palace.

It was not clear what led to the deaths at the time of filing this report. But sources said the deceased was an Hausa Fulani man believed to have participated in the killings and burning of houses during the post-election violence in Kafanchan.

However, informed sources told LEADERSHIP that the deceased and four others, who were said to be on the wanted list of the youths in the area, suddenly appeared and were allegedly planning another attack on the Katsit people. This caused the youths in the area to set bonfire on major streets, smash vehicles at sight, leading to people scampering for safety.

It was also gathered that security men, including soldiers on guard at specific places in the town, ran for cover but resurfaced a few minutes later to engage the rampaging youths in a shootout.

Roads leading to Kagoro and Kwoi towns from Kafanchan were heavily barricaded by the rioting youths, who stopped people from going in and coming out of the crisis-ridden town, particularly people who resumed offices yesterday after the Sallah holidays.

The Secretary of the Jama'atul Nasir Islam (JNI), Jema'a LGA, Alhaji Iliya Kall, said, "The truth of the situation is that a Muslim boy had a Christian friend in Katsit, and went to his house to pass a night, but, on reaching there, the people of the area killed him. And the boy whom the deceased visited reported the matter to the people and, before we could do anything the Hausa youths started protesting."

Meanwhile, a 24-hour curfew has been imposed on Kafanchan. The chairman of Jema'a local government, Mr. Yunana Markus Barde, who made the announcement, ordered soldiers to take over the security situation of the LGA.

He said the curfew would be strictly observed until normalcy returns, adding that anyone caught violating the order would be decisively dealt with.

Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, through his special adviser on religious affairs (Christian matters) Reverend Joseph John Hayab, has appealed to citizens of the state to remain calm as security measures have been taken to protect life and property in the state.

"Our youths must be familiar with core values and norms that characterize our glorious past, with the aim of renewing the trend so that our children will have a different and positive orientation far from the ongoing challenge. Government will continue to ensure that it provides a serene atmosphere and ensure peaceful coexistence and harmony among people of the state," the statement reads in part.

A competent security source said three people were killed, four cars and a house burnt. The 24-hour curfew is in two LGAs, Jema'a and Zangon Kataf. But security has been beefed up in the whole state. Yakawo and security chiefs in the state are likely to be in Kafanchan this morning for first hand information and meeting with stakeholders.

As at the time of filing this report there was still exchange of fire between the two warring sides.

A top government official, who pleaded for anonymity, told LEADERSHIP that "there is still exchange of fire between the two religious bodies despite the curfew imposed by the government. I cannot tell you how many people are dead now, because it is night. but, I can confirm to you there are a number of casualties in all the warring sides. Places of worship, the general market, houses of prominent persons have been raze down, there are gunshots everywhere in the town."

According to the source, "despite high security presence the riot is still on-going. The military have been drafted from Saminaka, Kaduna and some from Abuja. Security has been beefed up."

Some of the Houses razed down, LEADERSHIP learnt, are that of Alhaji Ahmadu Abba along Jagindi street, that of deputy Imam, Kafanchan Alhaji Sani, the House of former Council Chairman of Jema'a Barister Gideon Morik, among others.

The violent is on the dividing line between the predominantly Christian south and Muslim north.

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