Religious riot rages in Nigeria

Muslim and Christian militants are fighting bloody street battles in Nigeria's northern city of Kano for a second day, killing at least 15 people, witnesses say.

The rioting, which killed at least another 11 on Tuesday, was sparked by popular anger over what the Islamic community sees as the government's failure to prevent last week's massacre of hundreds of Muslims in the central Nigerian town of Yelwa.

Riot police used teargas to disperse groups of Muslim youths armed with clubs and cutlasses in many areas of Nigeria's second largest city, witnesses said.

Some members of the Christian minority gathered in the central Sabon Gari district and burned a mosque in retaliation for the burning of several churches by Muslims on Tuesday.

"A lot of people in Sabon Gari are armed with guns and machetes daring the Muslim militia to attack," eyewitness Jackson Kentebe said.

Kentebe said he saw 15 corpses in the Badawa district of the city on Wednesday, taking the death toll to at least 26.

Kano, 250 miles (400 km) north of the capital Abuja, is the centre of Islamic activism in Africa's most populous nation.

Police, who routinely withhold casualty figures from religious violence, could not confirm any deaths. A security source, who declined to be named, said at least 50 were killed in two days.

Kano authorities called for fighting to stop.

"Parents should talk to their kids to stop this destruction of property and killing of innocent people," Governor Ibrahim Shekarau said in a message broadcast repeatedly on state radio.

"It is wrong to attack somebody or kill somebody over a crime he or she did not commit," said Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano, in a radio address.


Survivors of last week's attack on Yelwa town said they buried 630 corpses after a two-day assault by heavily armed Christian militia. It was not possible to verify the figure independently and police have said "hundreds" were killed.

The OPEC oil exporting country of 130 million people is split equally between Muslims and Christians. Islamic leaders have been outraged by what they see as government failure to prevent the massacre, despite warnings from local Muslims that an attack was imminent.

Muslims in the predominantly Muslim city of Kano feel a strong bond with kinsmen in Plateau state because they are mostly of the same Hausa-Fulani ethnic group.

People of the Tarok and other predominantly Christian tribes in Plateau accuse the Hausa-Fulani of invading their ancestral land and want to drive them out of the state. Semi-nomadic Hausa-Fulani say their families have grazed cattle there for generations.

The Yelwa massacre was the latest outbreak of a conflict dating to 2001 when more than 1,000 were killed in fighting in the state capital Jos. At least 1,000 have been killed in the past three months.

The Yelwa massacre came three months after Islamic militia killed almost 100 Christians there.