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Ethnic Clashes Leave 7 Dead in Nigeria - 2002-02-03


At least seven people are dead following an outbreak of ethnic violence in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.

The fighting erupted Saturday in Lagos's impoverished Idi Araba section of the Mushin district, in the north of the city. Police officials in Lagos say the street battles pitted members of Nigeria's Hausa-speaking groups against ethnic Yorubas.

It is not clear what touched off the fighting. Hausa-speaking northerners, who are mostly Muslim, have a long history of conflicts with Yorubas from the southwest who are mostly Christian and animists. Both sides accuse each other of starting the fights on Saturday.

Police say members of the two groups threw rocks and bottles at each other and set fire to homes and shops. A number of people were injured.

Fearing that the violence would spread, hundreds of people fled their homes, many with their belongings on their heads.

Witnesses say calm appeared to return after police moved in to seal off the area where the fighting took place.

The violence raised already high tensions in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. The government continues to deal with the aftermath of a series of explosions last week at a munitions depot in Lagos that left more than 1,000 people dead and many more homeless. Some people have expressed anger at the military for storing high-power explosives in a densely populated area.

Mass burials are scheduled to take place this week for many of the bodies that have not been claimed.

On Friday, police officers went on strike across the country in a dispute over wages and unpaid benefits. Most officers returned to work Saturday after the government qualified the strike as a mutiny. Officials threatened to fire and prosecute those who took part.