Kano, Nigeria, 26 Jumadil Akhir 1434/5 Mei 2013 (MINA) – Nigerian police has said at least 39 people were killed and 30 were injured in violent clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs in central Nigeria’s Taraba state on Friday (3/5), prompting a round-the-clock curfew.
“We have so far compiled a death toll of 39 people while 30 others were seriously injured,” state police spokesman Joseph Kwaji said on Saturday (4/5) according to Arabiya reports monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).
Local residents told AFP that the death toll could rise.
Scores of houses were set ablaze and destroyed during the clashes in the town of Wukari which come amid a surge in religious violence in the west African nation.
“Thirty-two houses have also been destroyed in the violence,” Kwaji said of the unrest which has prompted authorities to impose an indefinite all-round curfew in the predominantly Christian city.
Meanwhile, the Independent Online report, local residents said Friday’s violence erupted when the funeral procession of a traditional chief from the predominantly Christian Jukun ethnic group marched through a Muslim neighbourhood chanting slogans, which Muslims viewed as an act of provocation.
A Tabara state police spokesman and a spokesman for the state governor confirmed the unrest but declined to give a death toll.
“There was fighting between some Christian and Muslim mobs yesterday in Wukari during the funeral procession of a traditional ruler but the situation has been brought under control by security personnel and we are awaiting a comprehensive report on the situation,” Joseph Kwaji, Taraba state police spokesman said.
“The state governor has imposed a 24-hour curfew on Wukari which is aimed at restoring normalcy in the town” after the fighting, said Kefas Sule, spokesman for the state governor.
Tensions have been on the rise in the mostly Christian town of Wukari since February, when a dispute over the use of a football pitch between Muslim and Christian soccer teams set off sectarian riots that claimed several lives.
Friday’s violence came a day after the state government inaugurated a committee to investigate the February violence.
It also follows a surge in violence and kidnappings in the restive north of Nigeria, the epicentre of an opposition movement by Boko Haram, in recent months.
In late April fierce fighting between soldiers and Islamic fighters in the remote northeastern town of Baga left 187 dead, according to the Red Cross, in the deadliest episode since the opposition began in 2009.
An area senator put the death toll from the attack at 228, but details remain murky about the clashes which also left nearly half the town destroyed after massive fires.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday released satellite images showing massive destruction in Baga, voicing concern that the military has “tried to cover up” abuses that should be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
But, the military has pushed back aggressively against these reports and fiercely denied claims that soldiers fired on civilians or deliberately torched scores of homes. (T/P09/P03)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)