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Standoff Over Sharia Law in Nigeria Continues

A dispute continues in Nigeria between the country's central government and authorities in the northern, mostly-Muslim Sokoto state who want to execute a woman for adultery. Nigeria's secular central government has said the execution should not take place.

The woman, Safiya Husseini, who is in hiding, on Thursday told VOA News she had been raped. The state she lives in, Sokoto, is one of 19 in Nigeria that have adopted the strict Islamic code known as sharia since last year.

A sharia court convicted her of adultery and said she must be put to death by stoning. At the time she was sentenced, she was pregnant. The woman has since given birth.

The federal government has tried to intervene. Nigeria's justice minister, Bola Ige, has on more than one occasion said the federal government will not permit the execution to take place as scheduled at the end of this month. Authorities in Sokoto state say that any attempt by the federal government to stop the state from carrying out the sentence would be unconstitutional.

It is the latest example of the growing dispute between Nigeria's secular central government and northern states that have adopted sharia.

Tensions over the imposition of sharia have erupted on several occasions in recent months between Muslims and Christians who do not want to live under the strict Islamic code.

Last month, scores were killed in confrontations in the state of Kano. Relief groups and journalists in the central Plateau state say at least 500 people died in September, when Muslims and Christians attacked each other in the city of Jos.

Observers warn a further escalation of religious violence could threaten to destabilize Nigeria - Africa's most populous country and one of the world's main producers of oil.