nigeria violence 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Muslims fled and heavily armed troops and police in armored personal carriers patrolled this southeast Nigerian city Thursday following two days of sectarian violence.
Onitsha, calm Thursday, had seen some of the worst of the violence that killed at least 93 people across this volatile West African nation.
The violence was sparked by weekend protests against cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. It was the worst to hit Nigeria since 2004, when Muslim-Christian skirmishes in northern Nigeria's Plateau and Kano states killed more than 700 people. Thousands of people have died in religious violence, often interwoven with ethnic rivalries, since 2000.
On the outskirts of Onitsha Thursday, several hundred Muslims fleeing the city boarded trucks headed north. Nigeria is roughly divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a mainly Christian south.
Soldiers and policemen patrolled in armored personnel carriers and trucks, providing protection for health workers picking up dead bodies from the streets, Emeka Uzoatu, an Onitsha resident and company manager, said Thursday.
In some parts of the city, however, shops were open and streets busy.
Gov. Chris Ngige extended a curfew imposed on Onitsha to the nearby towns of Nnewi and Awka, the state capital, after Muslim northerners had been attacked and killed in those places on Wednesday, the local government-owned radio station reported.
Deaths have also been reported by residents in violence the same day against Muslims in Enugu, a mainly Christian and ethnic Igbo-dominated city, some 100 kilometers north of Onitsha.
The violence came to Onitsha Tuesday, apparently in reaction to the killings in Maiduguri and Bauchi, which like most of northern Nigeria, are dominated by Muslims. Onitsha, like most of the south, is dominated by Christians.
A second day of violence in Onitsha was stoked by reports that ethnic Hausa Muslims sheltering in the city's military barracks had attacked a nearby primary school, killing a number of children.