Ten die in sectarian battles over mosque

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The Independent Online

Christians fought Muslims in an eastern Nigerian city yesterday, burning homes and places of worship in a dispute over the construction of a mosque near a Christian tribal leader's palace, police said.

Christians fought Muslims in an eastern Nigerian city yesterday, burning homes and places of worship in a dispute over the construction of a mosque near a Christian tribal leader's palace, police said.

Ten people have been killed in the fighting in Numan, near Nigeria's eastern border with Cameroon, that erupted on Tuesday and continued yesterday, witnesses said. A senior police officer said he was aware of only four injuries.

Christians of the local Bachama tribe had demanded that the area's minority Muslim population, who speak Hausa, destroy a mosque built this year near the palace of Freddie Soditi Bongo, the tribe's chief. The Bachama said the mosque's minaret was an affront to Christians because it was taller than the Christian leader's palace, but Muslim leaders refused to tear down the mosque until Christians paid for a new one elsewhere.

Joseph Myaturti, a resident of Numan who fled the town yesterday, said he saw four bodies in the Muslim quarter of Numan. Mr Myaturti, a Christian, said the violence started on Tuesday when a gang of Christians ordered down two Muslim builders working on the minaret. A worker who refused was dragged to the chief's compound and flogged with chains, said Mr Myaturti, who claimed he witnessed the event.

Christian witnesses said youths then tore down the minaret and heavily vandalised several other mosques in nearby Gyawana village. A Christian cleric said his parishioners saw the bodies of 10 people, mainly Muslims, in the streets.

Nigeria has been riven by Christian-Muslim violence that has killed thousands since a dozen northern states implemented the strict punishments of Sharia (Islamic law) in 2000. Fighting flared in the states of Plateau and Kano last month, killing hundreds and prompting President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency. He also sacked the governor and state legislature.

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