10 churches were burned in Nigeria by Moslems extremists


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From: Ctv television News Canada  (copy)
Date: 11/22/02
Time: 5:14:21 PM
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Updated Fri. Nov. 22 2002 5:30 AM ET

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CTV News Staff

More than 50 people have been killed and 200 injured in violent demonstrations in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. Muslim rioters stabbed onlookers and torched churches in the protests, which were sparked by an article about the upcoming Miss World pageant.

More than 50 people were stabbed, bludgeoned or burned to death in Kaduna's predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods and at least four churches were destroyed, Nigerian Red Cross President Emmanuel Ijewere told The Associated Press. Witnesses said there was even more destruction in the city, which is situated about 600 kilometres northwest of Lagos.

"As I stand in the street I can see a church burning in the Malali-Badarawa area. I have counted no less than 10 churches burned," said one resident. "I have seen and filmed two dead bodies on the streets."

Schools and shops hurriedly closed earlier Thursday when hordes of young men, shouting "Allahu Akhbar," or "God is great," took to the streets. Others chanted "Down with beauty" and "Miss World is sin."

The riots were sparked by a newspaper article published in ThisDay newspaper, which questioned the reasoning behind Muslim groups' objections to the Miss World pageant, which is scheduled to be held Dec. 7 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

"The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 women to Nigeria and ask them to revel in vanity. What would (the prophet) Mohammed think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them," said the article, which appeared in the paper Saturday.

The riots began Wednesday, when Muslims torched ThisDay's Kaduna office in retaliation. The government has appealed for calm and authorities are imposing a curfew on the city from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Nigeria has been plagued by turmoil in recent days over the country's plans to hold the Miss World contest. Several contestants have threatened to protest the sentencing of a Muslim woman in northern Nigeria to death by stoning for adultery.

The rioting in Kaduna has renewed sectarian tensions. Police placed the city of Kano, which has been a hotbed of sectarian violence, on alert. Thousands have died in sectarian riots over the past three years.

Earlier Thursday, two massive explosions ripped through the cargo wing of the airport in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. Witnesses said one worker was killed and air cargo officials and rescue workers reported 20 people were injured.

A customs official interviewed by a French news agency said the fire appeared to have been caused by a container of chemicals that accidentally fell off a fork-lift. Police have not yet confirmed the French report as speculation swirls that the explosions could be terrorist related. CTV's Murray Oliver said officials are quietly probing terrorism as a possibility. "It should be actively considered," Oliver said.

The explosions tore through a large, two-storey freight storage warehouse owned by Sky Power Aviation Handling Co., a subsidiary of Nigerian Airways. Oliver described the airport as a chaotic place with very little security. He said the building is usually crowded with cargo workers and passengers.

With reports from Reuters and The Associated Press