150 die as Nigerian Islamist groups go on the rampage


MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Thousands of Nigerians sheltered in barracks in the northern city of Maiduguri yesterday after days of clashes involving Muslim rebels which have killed at least 150 people across four states.

Members of a local Islamic group have burned churches, police stations and a prison and set off petrol bombs near residential areas in the unrest. Local police said 103 people, most of them rioters, had been killed in Maiduguri alone.

The rioters are supporters of a radical Islamic preacher opposed to western education, who critics say has whipped some students and illiterate, jobless youths into an anti-establishment frenzy over a period of years.

The latest unrest was triggered when some members of the group called Boko Haram, which wants a wider adoption of Islamic sharia law across Africa’s most populous nation, were arrested in Bauchi state. Violence then spread to the states of Kano, Yobe and Borno, of which Maiduguri is the capital.

“When we heard shooting and saw people running we just packed the family and joined them,” said Sunny Nwankwo, a journalist who fled to one of two barracks in Maiduguri sheltering thousands of civilians.

Residents said youths armed with machetes, knives, bows and arrows, locally made hunting rifles and home-made explosives had attacked police buildings and anyone resembling a police officer or government official, causing hundreds of families to flee.

Isa Azare, spokesman for Maiduguri police command, said 90 of the rioters as well as eight police officers, three prison officials and two soldiers had been killed. – (Reuters)