Monday, May 9, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
LAGOS, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Nigerian police have made dozens of arrests after religious violence reportedly killed up to 18 people, most of them Christians, including one girl who was first raped and poisoned to death by Muslim militants.
Compass Direct, a Christian news agency investigating persecution, said Monday, May 9, that most people died when Muslims attacked two villages in Nigeria's central state of Benue last month.
"Fourteen Christians were among 17 people killed in the villages of Chilakera and Imbufu" on April 10 "as a result of violent clashes between Christians and Muslims," said Compass Direct citing police reports.
The violence came after a Christian student was raped "and poisoned to death on March 17" by two Muslim men, local government official Tsenongo Abancha was quoted as saying.
He said the local government council made "considerable efforts" to mediate a peaceful settlement "but could not enlist the support" of Muslim leaders to avert the violence. "[The violence] has now resulted in the death of these 17 persons; 14 of them are Christians and three are Muslims," Abancha reportedly said.
Police told media they detained nine people in connection with the Benue violence, including relatives of the dead Christian girl. A leader of the Muslim community in the area, Alhaji Hussaini Yusufu, admitted to Compass Direct that the incident was sparked by the rape of the Christian girl.
“Apart from the three Muslims missing -- and we presume they may have been killed in the clashes -- we lost our properties,” Yusufu said.
Violence also spread to the city of Lagos, where a street fight on April 28 between Muslims and Christians left four people hospitalized with injuries, while damage to properties was estimated
to cost millions of dollars.
The clash broke out on the afternoon of April 28 in the Marine Beach area of the city, Compass
Direct said. Olabode Ojajuni, police public relations officer of the Lagos Police Command, said a group of Muslims accosted a Christian woman as she was walking on a street near a mosque and prevented her from passing.
"This infuriated other Christians who were standing by,” Ojajuni told Compass, “and in an effort to save the woman, a fight broke out between the Muslims and Christians. “We have arrested 41 persons, and investigations are still on over the matter. Those involved in this incident will be charged to court as soon as we complete our investigations,” he was quoted as saying.
Over the past four years, religious violence in Nigeria has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and displaced many thousands more from their homes and farms, according to church estimates. Community leaders in Nigeria -- both Muslim and Christian -- reportedly blame the escalating violence on social tensions produced by the implementation of Islamic law in a dozen northern states of Nigeria beginning in 2001. (With reports from Nigeria and Compass Direct)