Kaduna, Nigeria, Nov. 22 (Reuters): Fighting raged today in the Nigerian city of Kaduna, where over 100 people have died in three days of riots stoked by Muslim fury over the country’s staging of next month’s Miss World contest.
The Nigerian Red Cross gave a figure of at least 105 killed by this morning, and witnesses spoke of more killings by civilians and security forces since then.
More than 90 Miss World contestants, who had arrived in Nigeria on November 10 despite raging controversy, were confined to their hotel in Abuja. The tensions spread to Abuja by today after an unexplained stampede among Muslims leaving a mosque. There were, however, no reports of actual violence.
Pageant organisers have insisted the contest will go ahead as scheduled on December 7.
The streets of the northern city were littered with charred vehicles and burnt tyres. Hundreds of residents were seen fleeing their smouldering houses carrying their belongings.
A Reuters reporter saw 13 corpses in the streets, which eyewitnesses said were fresh from today’s fighting. They said more bodies had been thrown down wells by attackers.
Eyewitnesses said fighting spread from mainly Muslim districts to Christian-dominated areas today, despite a 24-hour curfew.
The violence over the past three days has involved the majority religious group in each area attacking the minority one, they said.
The violence, sparked by a newspaper article suggesting the Prophet Mohammad would probably have married one of the Miss World beauty queens, resembled massive sectarian bloodletting in the region two years ago that killed thousands.
The mayhem then stemmed from non-Muslim opposition to plans to introduce Shariat in Kaduna, but this time the fury has been touched off by the beauty pageant.
The country won the right to stage the contest after Nigerian Agbani Darego won the last event in South Africa.
The riots erupted on Wednesday when rampaging Muslim youths burned the Kaduna offices of the independent Lagos-based daily This Day, whose November 16 article sparked the violence.
The paper ran its fourth apology for its controversial report on today’s front page. It said the article went out in error.