Killings reported as riots flare in Nigeria

LAGOS - At least 20 people were killed yesterday in pro-democracy demonstrations in Lagos, the biggest city in strike-bound Nigeria, said Beko Ransome-Kuti, president of the opposition pressure group, Campaign for Democracy.

There was no official confirmation of the deaths. But other independent eyewitnesses said they had seen bodies along Western Avenue, a busy road in the city.

Nigeria has been virtually brought to a halt by striking oil unions pressing for a return to democracy and for the release of the opposition leader, Moshood Abiola, the apparent winner of last year's annulled presidential elections. He is detained and charged with treason after proclaiming himself president.

Riots flared early in the day in several parts of the city of 6 million people and police fired tear- gas to disperse crowds calling for an immediate return to democracy. Demonstrations also broke out in the western city of Ibadan, where police fought running battles with students and protesters calling for Mr Abiola's release, residents there said.

'We condemn the killings in the strongest terms. This is a rehash of what happened last year,' Mr Ransome-Kuti said, referring to the 1993 protest against the election annulment in which nearly 190 people were killed.

The strikes by oil unions entered their third week yesterday.

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