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Police, Military Blamed for Killing in Nigerian Town


The New York-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch has concluded that police and military personnel are to blame for dozens of killings during the riots in the Nigerian town of Kaduna last November.

The "Miss World" contest was scheduled in Nigeria for the early part of December. But it was canceled when riots in the town of Kaduna in Northern Nigeria broke out after an article published in the Lagos-based "ThisDay" newspaper suggested that the Prophet Mohammed would have approved of the international beauty pageant.

Some Muslims reportedly regarded the article as blasphemous, and attacked Christians, and Christians retaliated. During their effort to restore security, Human Rights Watch says, police killed more than 250 people in a three-day period last November.

The 32-page Human Rights Watch report provides eyewitness accounts of the killings. Peter Takirambudde is executive director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch in New York. "No one, to the best of our knowledge, information and belief, has been brought to justice for these crimes," he says. "The government of Nigeria bears responsibility for maintaining law and order. And if the government deploys police and military to maintain law and order and instead of promoting order the police perpetrate such gruesome killings, the government is accountable for those unfortunate occurrences."

The Human Rights Watch report recommends that the Nigerian government intensify efforts to prevent inter-communal violence. The watchdog group says that police and military operations used to restore law and order should never be used as a justification for extrajudicial killings.

Mr. Takirambudde says that he believes that the Nigerian government will take his organization's recommendations into consideration. "We take it that we are communicating with a government, which is responsible. We are talking about a government which is a leader," he says. "Nigeria is a strategic country, very important in West Africa, very important in Africa in general. Given the crucial important position which the government of Nigeria is playing we take it that it would demonstrate its commitment to human rights. If it is so committed then quite clearly it should take this report seriously."

Officials at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment.

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