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Riots in Nigeria Force Miss World Pagent to Move to London - 2002-11-22


The continued Muslims-led protests in Nigeria have forced organizers to move the Miss World pageant in the country to London. The event will be held there on December 7.

Groups of angry Muslim youths took to the streets of the Nigerian capital after Friday prayers and smashed car windows, set fire to shops, and barricaded roads.

The outbreak of violence caught residents of the capital by surprise. Abuja, which lies in the center of Nigeria, has never before experienced ethnic or religious clashes that are familiar to other parts of the country.

Residents scrambled to get home Friday as word of the attacks spread. Witnesses said the protesters set part of the city's main market on fire.

The rioting in Abuja came as young Muslims and Christians battled in the streets of the northern city of Kaduna for a third day. Red Cross officials say the violence has killed dozens of people and left hundreds injured. In the course of the rioting in Kaduna, demonstrators burned several churches.

Witnesses say non-Muslims vandalized mosques in retaliation.

Many Nigerian Muslims are angry that the government has agreed to hold the Miss World pageant in the country. Islamic leaders have condemned the event, saying it counters Islamic values by promoting sexual promiscuity.

Protests were sparked after a newspaper called This Day, published an article saying the Muslim prophet Mohammed would have probably taken one of the Miss World contestants as his wife. The newspaper has since apologized and retracted the article.

Organizers of the pageant insisted on Friday the contest will go on as scheduled.

Many of the contestants have already been in the country for several days. The final round of the pageant is to be broadcast worldwide on December seventh.

The violence in Abuja took place near the hotel where the pageant organizers are staying. But officials say the contestants are safe and did not see the rioting.

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