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Nigerian Troops on Alert as Ethnic Violence Spreads - 2002-02-05

Heavily armed troops and police remain on alert in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, in an effort to quell ethnic violence that has killed at least 100 people, according to Nigerian Red Cross officials.

Nigerian authorities called in troops after the violence began to spread Monday from the Idi Araba area to other quarters in the north of the city. Hausa-speaking northerners, who are mainly Muslims, and Yorubas from the more heavily Christian and animist southwest battled each other with guns and machetes, and set fire to homes, shops and vehicles. Hundreds of people have been injured and hundreds of others have fled their homes since Saturday.

Clashes broke out on Saturday, and again on Monday in the northern parts of Lagos, including the Idi Araba and Mushin areas. On Tuesday, scores of people fled their homes in panic after hearing reports that fighting had again flared, this time in the Agege area of Lagos. Authorities say the reports of fighting turned out to be untrue.

Witnesses in Lagos' northern districts say police have been patrolling the areas where the fighting took place and interrogating people to find those responsible for the attacks.

Residents say there was an uneasy calm in the bustling commercial capital of more than 12 million people on Tuesday, amid the presence of heavily armed troops and police. Schools and some businesses remained closed as people waited to see if the fighting had indeed subsided.

Lagos state government officials said schools would remain closed until further notice.

In the past few days, the city has been hit by a police strike, and more notably by a series of explosions at a munitions depot that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people.

Many of the victims were children who were caught in a stampede that followed the blasts.