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Violence rages in Lagos

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Nigerian security forces fought gun battles with rioters wielding machetes, swords, bows and arrows in an attempt to quell ethnic clashes that have left dozens dead.

Thousands of Hausa tribe members have fled Lagos in terror carrying their few possessions on their shoulders and backs after clashes with Yoruba tribesmen.

CNN's Jeff Koinange said he was in "the middle of hell," as he witnessed dead bodies along the roadside, four of whom were on fire and smoldering.

The Nigerian Red Cross estimate that 55 people have been killed and more than 150 injured in the fighting, but police sources told Reuters on Monday that about 20 people had died.

The injured had suffered gunshots and machete wounds.

CNN's Jeff Koinange reports tribal rivalry is creating a wave of deaths and arson in Lagos, Nigeria (February 4)

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Hundreds of police moved into the troubled districts of Idi Araba and Mushin on Sunday to impose a nighttime curfew, but the violence resumed at daybreak.

A Reuters photographer said: "There were about three dozen militia members and they started shooting at police. The police fired back and the gun battle lasted about 15 minutes."

Koinange added the situation was "out of control."

It is the latest tragedy to have hit Lagos. More than 1,000 people died just over a week ago after an arms depot exploded at an army barracks.

Hundreds of people, mainly women and children, were crushed in a stampede of panicked residents as the armaments rained down on the city, or drowned in a nearby canal as they tried to escape the blasts.

The city has been tense since the tragedy.

Long-standing hostility exists between the mainly Muslim Yoruba tribe, most of whom are Christians or animists, and their neighbours, the Muslim Hausas.

The cause of the violence has not been confirmed, but the Hausas said members of a Yoruba militant group, Odudua, attacked Hausa homes on Saturday and that a young Yoruba man desecrated a mosque in Idi Araba.

Hausas apparently turned on him and beat him to death. Yorubas saw this and retaliated. The Yoruba fighters said the Hausas made the first move.

Many others said the fighting began with a neighbourhood squabble after someone allegedly defecated in front of another person's home.

The fighting resumed on Monday when some witnesses said Odudua members burnt homes believed to be owned by Hausas, shot at residents and threw homemade petrol bombs.

The government has taken the precaution of moving truckloads of soldiers to northern Nigeria's biggest city Kano to patrol the area in an effort to prevent reprisal killings.

Police said they had also reinforced Jigawa state, which borders Kano, a highly volatile city in a largely Muslim region.


• Sabotage in Lagos blasts not ruled out
February 03, 2002
• Nigeria clashes leave at least 17 dead
February 03, 2002
• Nigeria blasts: 1,100 missing
January 30, 2002
• Anger follows Lagos blasts
January 29, 2002
• Inquiry begins into Nigeria blasts
January 29, 2002

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