Nigerian authorities say at least 13 people have been killed in clashes between Christians and Muslims in the northern city of Kano. Religious tensions have risen in the Muslim-dominated city since the beginning of U.S. led air strikes against military targets in Afghanistan.
The violence began Friday after a Muslim youth organization held a rally denouncing the U.S. and British military strikes. The rally ended peacefully, but then rioters began setting fire to cars and buildings. Violence soon engulfed several neighborhoods of Kano, northern Nigeria's largest commercial center. Non-Muslims were said to be fleeing the city.
Police say most of the violence between Christian and Muslim gangs occurred Friday night and early Saturday. Witness accounts indicate that fire gutted Kano's central mosque, as well as several other Muslim and Christian places of worship.
Authorities say 13 people were killed in the violence, but some witnesses say the death toll is higher. Professor Bawa Gusau teaches political science at Kano's Bayero University. "The figure should be 20 or 30 from what I have been able to gather from a number of sources," he said.
On Saturday, Kano state police commmissioner Yakubu Bello Uba imposed a night-time curfew and issued orders to shoot rioters on sight. By Sunday morning, police had largely restored calm to the city. "I was out onto the street this morning and as far as I could see, there has not been any case of any outbreak of violence whatsoever," said Professor Gusau.
Kano has a history of religious tension. Relations between Christians and Muslims deteriorated after the state government imposed Sharia, or Islamic law, last year. However, religious and ethnic clashes have also wracked other parts of Nigeria this year, including Plateau and Zamfara states.