Death Toll in Nigerian Riots Rises to 18
Police said Monday 18 people have been confirmed dead in weekend rioting in the northern Nigerian city of Kano sparked by a Muslim rally against US-led reprisal attacks on Afghanistan.
The death toll is based on bodies recovered, but residents and officials believe the final tally will be much higher.
The rioting saw the state authorities deploy a heavy army presence on the streets and impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
Police described the situation in Kano, a hotbed of religious unrest over the past 20 years, as quiet Monday, although residents said the situation was still tense.
"We can confirm 18 people dead in the violence," Kano State police commissioner Yakubu Bello Uba told AFP.
He said over 200 people had been arrested in connection with the riots, which broke out Saturday following Friday's rally.
On Sunday, the state government said 13 people had been killed and some 116 others injured.
Local newspapers Monday quoted residents as saying the death toll may have risen to over 100.
But officials, including policemen, contacted by AFP described that figure as "highly exaggerated."
Ibrahim Ado Gwagwarwa, spokesman for State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, said Monday a security meeting chaired by the governor and involving police chiefs and security officials had backed patrols of the city by the police and army to forestall any new outbreak of violence.
"The situation is now calm," Gwagwarwa said.
Although some witnesses said the violence began with clashes between Muslim and Christian youths, State Information Commissioner Nura Mohammed Dankadai has denied any religious motivation, describing it as the work of hoodlums.
"The issue here is about people who wanted to loot and destabilise the peace. They took advantage of the peaceful rally held on Friday to cause chaos," he said.
Police said Monday that hundreds of non-Muslims who had fled their homes and taken refuge in police and army barracks when the riots began had started returning home.
"Peace is back to Kano. The people are returning home," one police officer said.
The curfew will, however, remain in force, he added.
Kano, northern Nigeria's largest and main commercial city, has a mainly Muslim population.
Callers to radio and television stations Monday condemned the bloody unrest, describing it as "unnecessary" and a "bad omen" for democracy.
"We should not act like the proverbial outsiders and sympathisers, weeping more than the bereaved. The matter is principally between Afghanistan and United States. So what have Nigerian Muslims got to do with it?" one asked.
"We should be reasonable in Nigeria and we should not allow religious sentiments to becloud our sense of reasoning and judgement," said an obviously angry contributor, who simply gave his name as Jide.
Nigeria has formally condemned the September 11 attacks and has backed current reprisal attacks on Afghanistan's Taliban government -- Nigeria, (AFP)
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