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Voter Turnout Low in Nigerian Local Elections - 2004-03-27

Nigerians have turned out in low numbers to cast ballots in tense municipal elections already marred by campaign-related violence.

Reports from polling stations across the country say few people showed up to vote, Saturday.

Although most large cities were peaceful, sporadic violence was reported in some areas.

In the northern city of Kano, police fired into the air to prevent a crowd of people from attacking opposing party members. The French news agency reports fighting also broke out in the southwestern state of Ondo as polls closed Saturday.

Tens of thousands of police officers and army troops were stationed at polling booths across the country to prevent violence. The threat of attacks prompted officials in some districts to suspend voting.

Tension had been building across Nigeria in advance of the voting. At least 20 people died during campaign-related clashes Thursday in a village outside the central city of Jos. On Friday, at least five people died in the eastern oil city of Port Harcourt.

The New York-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch has called on the government to prevent any violence in the wake of the murders of several party officials and candidates over the last two months.

More than 100 people died in election-related violence during last year's presidential and parliamentary polls in Nigeria.