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Hundreds of Christians Killed in Ongoing Religious Violence in Nigeria

BY Admin  May 14, 2004 at 4:31 PM EDT

Rioting Muslims have burned and hacked to death hundreds of people, mostly Christians, since Tuesday to avenge the slaying of Muslims in central Nigeria ten days ago.

Some 1,000 Nigerians died in the Kano riots, Rev. Andrew Ubah, the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kano, told Reuters. Hospital workers told the wire service that hundreds had been killed. The official death toll is 30, but Nigerian authorities are known to underestimate death tolls from religious violence, believing accurate figures could spark reprisal attacks.

An aid worker told Reuters she saw three truckloads of corpses delivered to Kano’s main hospital.

“On Wednesday evening they brought in two trailer loads of bodies. There was one trailer load the previous day. A lot of people were killed. I think it is even more than 600,” said the medical worker.

Many Christians have boarded buses in an attempt to flee the violence in Kano.

“People are saturated with fear, especially today being Friday, so they are leaving,” Adamson Gbangange told Reuters as he boarded a bus out of Kano.

At Kano’s central Bompai police compound, Mama Aisha, a 40-year-old mother of six children, carried a seventh on her back — a baby whose mother was hospitalized after a machete-wielding mob attacked her.

“I have nothing to feed them,” Aisha told the Associated Press as she gestured toward the baby. “She has not seen her mother for three days.”

Kano Gov. Ibrahim Shekarau urged Muslims to refrain from further revenge attacks.

“Vengeance is not yours. It is God’s,” he said in a TV and radio broadcast.

In Aba, a southern, predominately Christian city, it was Muslims who found refuge in police stations, saying they feared reprisals for attacks in Kano.

The latest round of violence erupted Tuesday after thousands of Muslims marched through Kano to protest the killing of fellow Muslims in the remote farming town of Yelwa in central Nigeria ten days ago.

Christian and Muslim tribes have been feuding over land near Yelwa for several years, but the conflict intensified last week.

Muslim survivors of the Yelwa massacre told Reuters they buried 630 people after a commando-style attack by Christian militia. Authorities have maintained the death toll was 67.

Police reported renewed fighting near Yelwa Friday, although they had no information on casualties.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, on a visit to the central Nigeria Thursday, criticized religious leaders, accusing them of stoking hatred and revenge.

“President Obasanjo urges all well-meaning Nigerians to join him in finding a permanent solution to this trend of intolerance, violence, killing and maiming,” the president’s spokeswoman, Remi Oyo, said Friday.

Nigeria’s population of 130 million people is split roughly equally between Muslims and Christians.