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Miss World fury rocks Nigeria

Kaduna (Nigeria, Nov. 21 (Reuters): Rioting youths torched churches, looted shops and destroyed vehicles in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna today amid rising Muslim fury over the country’s staging of the Miss World pageant.

Authorities clamped a curfew on the city about 600 km northwest of Lagos as soldiers were drafted to help police contain rioting that witnesses said had killed at least two people. “As I stand in the street I can see a church burning in the Malali-Badarawa area. I have counted no less than 10 churches burned,” said one resident. “I have seen and filmed two dead bodies on the streets.”

In Lagos, An explosion ripped through the cargo wing of the airport today, killing at least one person and trapping others inside, witnesses said. They said ambulances ferried wounded from the scene, just on the edge of the international terminal for Nigeria’s commercial capital, the busiest airport in West Africa. There was no immediate explanation for the blast at the complex, which is usually crowded with cargo agents and clients.

Kaduna state commissioner for information Isah Abdullahi announced the 6.00 pm to 6.00 am curfew in a radio broadcast intended to calm the city, where thousands died in religious clashes two years ago. The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo appealed for calm, and warned that anyone found fomenting disorder would be decisively dealt with. The rioting — sparked by a newspaper article which linked the Miss World contest to the Prophet Mohammad — was the latest crisis to befall Nigeria’s plans to hold the contest.

Witnesses in Kaduna said protesters blockaded major highways with bonfires, destroyed vehicles and attacked hotels. “Some churches have been burnt and people have also been killed, but I have no figures,” said one senior police officer who asked not to be named.

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