Muslim Cartoon Protests Claim Over 100 More Lives in Nigeria

|TOP|The furore over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad may have claimed over one-hundred more lives, following violence this week in northern Nigeria.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that over thirty churches and 250 houses and shops have been destroyed in Borno State. The violence began as a peaceful protest in the state capital Maiduguri, but soon degenerated.

A mob armed with sticks, machetes and iron bars went rampaging through the town destroying Christian property and targeting the clergy, reports CSW. The priest of St’ Rita’s Catholic Church, Father Gajere, as well as his domestic staff, were all burned to death in his home. The residence of the Catholic Bishop of Maiduguri was also burned.

According to CSW there were a number of particularly horrific incidents. In Gamboro a husband and wife lost all six of their children and all their possessions when their house was burned down.

|QUOTE|One man was killed by a mob who put a tyre around him, covered him in petrol and set him on fire.

Eyewitnesses claimed that the bodies were pilling up in the hospitals of Maiduguri as there were not enough burial sites for those killed.

115 people have been arrested according to the Borno police. Desperate pleas by local Christians for evacuation and a curfew were answered when the Nigerian army arrived to help the police to restore order.

CSW has reported that on the same day in Katsina state, Christian and Igbo properties in the capital city were attacked. A curfew was quickly instituted, but at least seven people died in the attacks.

The local police claimed that one rioter died, two police officers had been injured and that twenty-five people were arrested. There are also reports that religious tension has been increasing in Kano and Niger States.

|AD|In the capital of Plateau State, Jos, tension increased prior to the events in Maiduguri. For example there was an increase in armed robbery and there was a violent attack on a prominent Christian family.

In Wase, southern Plateau State there was violence in which a car driver was stabbed and a pregnant woman along with seven others, were critically injured by Muslim students in the aftermath of a road incident.

Since 2000, at least 50,000 have been killed in religious violence in northern and central Nigeria, following the adoption by a number of northern states of the Shari’ah penal code. The code has in effect created a state religion in the north, something forbidden by Nigeria’s secular constitution.

Muslim militancy has been on the increase in Borno state. The Al Sunna Wal Jamma or 'Taliban' group has started targeting Christian settlements and government installations. When challenged by government security forces, they flee to neighbouring countries.

In response to the events, the Primate of Nigeria, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Most Reverend Peter J Akinola spoke saying: "That an incident in far away Denmark which does not claim to be representing Christianity could elicit such an unfortunate reaction here in Nigeria, leading to the destruction of Christian Churches, is not only embarrassing, but also disturbing and unfortunate."

The Chief Executive of CSW, Mervyn Thomas has also claimed that: "A strong and consistent response is needed by the Government of Nigeria to restore order and bring an end to this alarming escalation of violence. We urge the federal government to ensure that victims receive adequate compensation and damaged or destroyed properties are rebuilt as a matter of urgency."

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