Nigeria hit by fresh wave of sectarian killings

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The Independent Online

Revenge sectarian killings were reported in the southeastern region of Nigeria yesterday in an ominous development echoing the war that almost led to the break-up of Nigeria in the late 1960s.

Revenge sectarian killings were reported in the southeastern region of Nigeria yesterday in an ominous development echoing the war that almost led to the break-up of Nigeria in the late 1960s.

Rioting erupted in reaction to the religious bloodshed in northern Nigeria last week, which followed the imposition of Islamic sharia law in Kaduna state.

Residents of the southeastern city of Aba said the violence pitted local Christians from the Ibo minority against Hausa-speaking immigrants from the Muslim north.

"The rioting started in the morning," one Aba resident told Reuters by telephone. "There has been fighting between the Ibos and Hausas. Nobody can say how many dead there are now."

The latest fighting is an uncomfortable reminder of the events that preceded the 1967 Nigerian civil war. Two million people died in the war, which was prompted by the secession of Biafra, the Ibo heartland.

The fighting in the north had already raised fears of the possible break-up of Africa's most populous country only months after the end of military rule.

The south-east is home to the oil industry, which has already been disrupted by environmental protests. Nigeria is split between the Muslim majority in the north and Christians and animists in the south.

Since the mostly Muslim Zamfara state became the first to adopt sharia law last October several more states have moved towards its introduction, including some with large Christian populations.

Roman Catholic bishops warned in a statement yesterday that Nigeria was heading towards "national suicide" over the introduction of sharia in the face of Christian opposition.

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