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Riots Force Kaduna Under Curfew - 2002-11-21

The northern Nigerian city of Kaduna is under a dusk-to-dawn curfew after Muslim youths rampaged through the city for a second day Thursday, burning churches, and smashing shops. The youths were protesting the holding of the Miss World pageant in Nigeria.

Young Muslims smashed car windows, burned tires in the streets, and set fire to a number of churches in the outlying districts of Kaduna a city with a history of ethnic and religious clashes.

Witnesses say they saw burned bodies in the streets. Nigerian army soldiers and police took positions across the city as the state governor announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The rioting began on Wednesday, when young Muslims set fire to the offices of the newspaper, This Day. The newspaper angered many Muslims when it published an article about the Miss World Pageant that some said was blasphemous.

The article said that if the Muslim prophet Mohamed were to see the women who will take part in the contest, he would probably take one for a wife.

The newspaper has since apologized for publishing the article.

Plans to hold the Miss World beauty pageant in Nigeria have drawn protests from Islamic leaders in the largely Muslim north of the country, where 12 states have implemented the strict Islamic code, Sharia, in recent years.

Conservative Muslim leaders in Nigeria have blasted the pageant as indecent, saying it induces people to be sexually promiscuous.

Contestants have already begun to arrive for the pageant, which is to take place under tight security in the capital, Abuja, on December 8.

The competition has already been the subject of much controversy. The nations of Costa Rica, Denmark, Panama, South Africa, and Switzerland decided to boycott the event after Sharia courts in northern Nigeria sentenced at least two women to die after they had children out of wedlock. The sentences have not been carried out.

Police and soldiers patrolled the streets of Kaduna late Thursday, where residents said many people remained inside their homes.

The city was the scene of religious and ethnic riots that killed hundreds two years ago, when Sharia was first introduced.