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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Friday 14 May 2004

NIGERIA: 57,000 people displaced by sectarian violence in two states

KANO, 14 May 2004 (IRIN) - At least 57,000 people have fled their homes following sectarian violence involving Christians and Muslims in northern and central Nigeria, officials said on Friday.

More than 30,000 Christians have been displaced from their homes in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, which was racked by religious violence on Tuesday and Wednesday, they said.

A further 27,000 displaced people had sought refuge in Bauchi state in east central Nigeria following a massacre of Muslims by Christian gangs in neighbouring Plateau state earlier this month, the officials added.

The Nigerian Red Cross has said at least 36 people in Kano were killed as mobs of Muslim youths attacked the Christian minority in the city.

Mohammed Balarabe, an official of the Kano State Emergency Agency, said more than 30,000 people had fled their homes in the city of eight million and were now taking refuge at six centres across the city, including police and army barracks.

"We are doing our best for them but 30,000 is a lot," Balarabe said, adding that the displaced people needed more relief assistance.

Meanwhile, the government of Bauchi state in east central Nigeria said it was dealing with more than 27,000 people who had fled their homes, many of whom had fled there from Plateau state.

"We have more than 27,000 people in 35 camps spread across Bauchi," Mohammed Abdullahi, state government spokesman, told IRIN. Most of them were Muslims who feared reprisals by the predominantly Christian communities in which they lived, he added.

Abdullahi said the Bauchi state government had been providing for the displaced people to the best of its ability but needed help from the federal government and other relief agencies.

The National Emergency Management Agency said on Friday its needs assessment teams had visited four states where most of the displaced people were camped. Besides Kano and Bauchi, they had also toured camps in Plateau state and neighbouring Nassarawa state.

"We have also started moving stocks of relief materials to these places to aid the displaced get over their difficulties," a senior official said.

Only a few hundred people had been displaced in Nassarawa, which lies to the south of Plateau state, he added.

The latest outburst of religious violence in Nigeria erupted on 2 May when a Christian militia force from the Tarok tribe killed more than 600 Muslims in the small town of Yelwa in Plateau State. Most of those killed were members of the staunchly Muslim Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups which dominate northern Nigeria.

This week's violence in Kano was sparked off by a Muslim protest demonstration against the Yelwa killings.


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