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December 2001 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 48, No. 12)
The U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan provided the backdrop for a weekend of violence in the northern Nigerian city of Kano in mid-October, with estimates of up to 200 people killed.
Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city, is the capital of Kano state, one of several states that have adopted the Islamic legal code Sharia in the past two years. In that time, conflict between Christian and Muslim communities has been periodic, with 2,000 deaths from religious unrest in, February 2000, and a further 500 in September 2001.
October’s violence was apparently spurred by an anti-American
protest rally on Oct. 12. Though it started peacefully, the
Muslim-led rally became chaotic. “Chanting youths burned down
a Toyota Hiace bus belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party
and a police vehicle,” reported Abuja’s conservative Islamic-oriented
Daily Trust (Oct. 15).
The intensity of the violence mounted over the weekend, as rioters
burned down five churches, two mosques, and several newspaper
offices, including those of the liberal, independent Lagos-based
Vanguard. On Saturday, the state government imposed a
dusk-to-dawn curfew, giving police orders to shoot any violators
Local politicians and religious leaders expressed dismay. “I…feel
ashamed as a Nigerian that such a thing is happening,” said
Dayo Adeyeye, spokesman for the socio-political group Afenifere,
in an interview with Lagos’ independent Guardian (Oct.
15). “Although we are generally concerned about the issue of
terrorism, why should Nigerians become victims of attack by
fellow Nigerians?” Other commentators linked the surge in religious
fundamentalism with poverty and unemployment. “A lot of tension
has to do with local conditions which show no signs of improving,”
said Kabiru Yusuf, editor in chief of the Daily Trust,
in an interview with the multinational Web site allAfrica.com
(Oct. 16). “God knows how many youths are unemployed and unemployable.”
“If you look at what is happening now, you will find Bin Laden’s
portraits all over the place,” political scientist Hudu Ayuba
was quoted as saying by Kaduna’s conservative Islamic-oriented
Weekly Trust (Oct. 12). The Oct. 12 rally, organized
by the Nigerian Youths Muslim Congress, was attended by prominent
Muslim clerics. “The demonstrators…chanting ‘We will answer
your call, Osama,’ accused Jews of masterminding the Sept. 11
attack,” reported Lagos’ independent This Day (Oct. 14).
But the Bush administration, perhaps reluctant to add another
country to its growing list of problem nations, denied a link
between the anti-American protests and the violence. “Our people
on the ground say the demonstration ended and peacefully broke
up,” said an unnamed official at the U.S. State Department,
quoted on allAfrica.com
(Oct. 16). “They see this as yet another outbreak of sectarian