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52 dead in Nigeria reprisal attacks

posted 18 Jun 2012, 11:31 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 18 Jun 2012, 11:32 ]

At least 52 people were killed in religious rioting sparked by three suicide bombings against churches in the northern Nigeria city of Kaduna.

At least 52 people have been killed in religious rioting sparked by three suicide bombings against churches in Nigeria's northern city of Kaduna.
Rioting broke out immediately on Sunday (June 17) after suicide car bombers attacked three churches in Kaduna and Zaria killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens.

Christian youths had set up roadblocks and dragged Muslims from cars or motorbikes and killed them, witnesses said.

Although there has been no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday's church bombings, Islamist sect Boko Haram, which is waging an insurgency in the northeast against President Goodluck Jonathan's government, had claimed deadly church attacks on the previous two Sundays, as well as others.

Corpses littered the ground in parts of the city. They were piled one on top of the other in an old cemetery, some charred. A soldier guarding the site said there were at least 30 bodies of people killed in the violence at that site.

They had been dragged to the secluded cemetery, in a majority Christian neighbourhood, by the mobs, he said.

A 24-hour curfew imposed by the Kaduna state government on Sunday largely succeeded in restoring order, residents said.

The violence stoked fears of wider sectarian conflict in Nigeria, an OPEC member and Africa's top oil producer that houses the world's largest equal mix of Christians and Muslims.

Boko Haram church bombings seem calculated to trigger wider sectarian strife, often striking at the heart of Nigeria's volatile "Middle Belt", where the mostly Christian south and Muslim north meet.

The Islamists' leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said the attacks on Christians were in revenge for the killings of Muslims.

But they have usually failed to spark sustained conflict in a nation whose Muslims and Christians mostly co-exist peacefully, despite periodic flare-ups of sectarian violence since independence from Britain in 1960.

Religiously mixed Kaduna is near the Middle Belt and has several times been a flashpoint. Riots killed hundreds there in April last year when Jonathan, a southern Christian, defeated northern Muslim Muhammadu Buhari in elections.