Nigeria: hundreds die in clashes between Muslims and Christians

 More than 215 people have died and at least 1,000 are injured after four days of violence between Christians and Muslims in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. Among the casualties is a diocesan priest, Fr Gemisi Iyere who was critically ill in hospital last night, the Missionary News Service (MISNA) report. Thousands have been displaced and more than 11,000 made homeless in the clashes which were sparked by a newspaper article about the Miss World pageant. Aid workers say more than 20 churches and eight mosques were burned down in the city. A tense calm was reported yesterday. While heavily-armed police and soldier patrolled the streets, people were venturing out timidly to try to find food in local markets and to attend church services. Sr Semira Carrozzo, mother superior of the Oblate Sisters in Kaduna told MISNA there had been "moments of great fear", when a group tried to break into her community house. She said the guard managed to keep them out and call for help from the nearby army barracks. Sr Semira said demonstrators attacked several religious buildings as well as Christian shrines. The Church of Saint Augustine and the Holy Cross were also set alight. A blaze destroyed the offices of the Catholic Secretariat of Kaduna. Sr Samira said she did not believe the rioting was caused by religious differences. She said: "We have been living in Kaduna already for some years. A nursery and primary school in which we host, educate and feed 500 children everyday. Christian and Muslim children. We have close relations with the Muslims that attend our school. The people, Islamic and Christian live and work close to one another". She said her Islamic friends warned her community that some extremists were planning to riot. She expressed fears that there might be a repeat of the riots that took place two years ago in which more than 2,000 people died in clashes between Christians and Muslims. The Archbishop of Abuja, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan echoed these views. He said: "It is clear that it is not a dispute between Christians and Muslims. Something incomprehensible is underway, which needs to be clearly explained as soon as possible. The cause of this violence has nothing to do with the differences between the Christian and Islamic communities". Archbishop Olorunfemi Onaiyekan said the "government must react with steadiness at least to guarantee and restore public order"...."It is not possible that a newspaper article could provoke the death of dozens of people". The Archbishop said he thought the disputed Miss World contest also had nothing to do with the violence. "There is somebody that wants to gain political value from this situation of tension and atmosphere of disorder" he said.

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