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Africa

Renewed clashes between Muslims and Christians

Latest update : 2009-02-21

At least five people were killed and churches and mosques set ablaze in the eastern Nigerian city of Bauchi on Saturday, close to where clashes between religious gangs killed hundreds of people last November.

AFP - Five people were killed and four others injured Saturday in sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians over places of worship in northern Nigeria's Bauchi state, residents said.
   
Muslim youths attacked Christians and burned churches in reprisals over the burning of two mosques overnight in the state capital Bauchi, which the Muslims blamed on Christians, they said.
   
"I saw five dead bodies on the streets this morning, one of them was burnt," resident Muazu Hardawa told AFP by telephone from Bauchi.
   
"One of the dead bodies was one of five Muslim youths shot by police deployed to the area to restore calm when a mob insisted on burning a church," he said.
   
Hardawa said three churches in nearby Kofar Dumi neighbourhood were burnt during the violence.
   
Bauchi state governor Isa Yuguda said he had ordered troops to be deployed to restore order in the city.
   
The clashes follow religious and political violence that killed hundreds of people in the central city of Jos in November.
   
Tension had risen in Bauchi since February 13 when members of a pentacostal church opposite a mosque in the area barricaded a pathway outside the church used by Muslims attending Friday prayers, residents said.
   
A truck had broken down in the middle of the road separating the church and the mosque, blocking the passage and the Muslims had to use a narrow path between the truck and the church, further inflaming tensions, according to resident Babayo Hassan.
   
He said a police detachment stationed in the area had to intervene by removing the barricades and appealing for calm on both sides.
   
"Angered by what they saw as provocation, an unprecedented number of Muslims attended the Friday prayers yesterday and the congregation overflowed to the church's gate but there was no incident," Hassan said.
   
"But around 3:00 a.m. two mosques in the area went up in flames. The Muslims accused the members of the church for the arson and enraged Muslim youths went on a rampage," he added.
   
The Christian-dominated neighbourhood was a centre of bloody sectarian strife in 2004 when a Muslim-Christian violence in the town of Tafawa Balewa, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) away spilled over to the city and houses, mosques and churches were burnt, Hardawa said.  
   
But the Bauchi state government blamed disgruntled politicians for the mayhem.
   
"This is a crisis fomented by troublemakers intent on causing disaffection in the state," state governor Yuguda said in a broadcast aired on the state-owned radio.
   
"It is fuelled by disgruntled political elements who do not wish the state well and the government will not condone it," he said.
   
"I have ordered soldiers to take over the restoration of normalcy in the affected area from the police," the governor added.
   
The police authorities in the city have refused to comment on the violence.

Date created : 2009-02-21

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