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Nigerian Security Forces on Alert Following Youth Rioting - 2002-11-22

Security forces in northern Nigeria remained on alert Friday as the death toll rose to at least 100 following two days of rioting. Muslim youths rampaged in the city of Kaduna over Nigeria's plans to host the Miss World beauty pageant next month.

Authorities expressed fear that the violence might spread across the largely Muslim north of Nigeria.

Residents said groups of non-Muslim youths attacked Muslim targets on Friday in retaliation for the violence of the past two days. Witnesses said the youths vandalized mosques in outlying districts of Kaduna.

Young Muslims rampaged through the city on Wednesday and Thursday, burning churches and attacking bystanders with clubs and machetes. Red Cross officials said scores were killed and hundreds more wounded. Plumes of smoke rose from the city Thursday as rioters burned tires and garbage in the streets in order to block traffic.

The riots have centered on Nigeria's plans to hold the Miss World beauty pageant in the capital, Abuja, next month. Islamic leaders in the country's mainly Muslim north have protested, saying the pageant is indecent and promotes sexual promiscuity.

The rampage of the last two days was sparked by an article that ran in a Nigerian newspaper which said that if the Muslim prophet Mohammed were to see the contestants, he would probably take one of them for a wife. Muslim leaders responded angrily, calling the article blasphemous and disrespectful to Muslims.

The newspaper, This Day, has since apologized and retracted the article.

Police say hundreds of people, Muslims and non-Muslims, have taken refuge at army barracks and police stations to escape from the violence.

Kaduna was on a dusk-to-dawn curfew from Thursday to Friday, but residents said many youths ignored it and continued to riot through the night into Friday morning.

Residents reported sporadic gunfire as soldiers patrolled the streets, and many chose to remain indoors early Friday.