by Obed Minchakpu
KADUNA, Nigeria (Compass) -- A resurgence of violence between Muslims and Christians erupted on May 23 and 24 in Kaduna city of northern Nigeria, but sources dispute the extent of the carnage.
"There are silent killings still going on, making the actual death toll difficult, but information from Christian and Muslim brothers gives a death toll of 300," said James Wuye, national coordinator of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum.
However, the Kaduna state assistant commissioner of police in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, Joseph Adegbite, told Compass that at least 43 persons have been killed in the renewed hostilities, and that 180 persons have been arrested.
"We cannot just give specific figures because some people may have died in some of the remote places in Kaduna," he said.
The renewed hostilities occurred three months after the February 21-24 clashes in Kaduna, in which over one thousand lives were lost and property estimated at over $5 billion was destroyed.
The clashes between Muslims and Christians are said to have been triggered by incessant attacks on Christians and their churches in Kaduna by Muslim extremists.
Kaduna state Police Commissioner Alhaji Mohammed Shehu, while addressing a press conference, said the recent conflict began with the killing of a Christian, Mr. Likita Yakubu, 20.
"We received a report that there was a problem," Shehu said. "In short, that the problem had started. The cause of the problem was a corpse that was seen. The people of Narayi (a Christian suburb of Kaduna) said the corpse belonged to them and because of that, they want to take revenge. They quickly went on a rampage."
But Christian leaders in Narayi rejected Shehu's explanation. They told Compass that Muslim fanatics have targeted their community for some time now and the police have provided little protection. It is the inability of the police to protect the Christians that leads to the Christians defending themselves against such attacks, they said.
On May 16, Muslims set ablaze the Evangelical Church of West Africa on Aminu Road in Kaduna, and Christian houses in the vicinity of the church were also burned.
On May 12, Muslims clubbed a Christian police constable to death near Kaduna's central market. The constable was passing along a street adjacent to a mosque when he was attacked and killed, and his service pistol was stolen. The pistol was recovered several days later when some of the attackers were arrested.
At the Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, Kaduna, an unmarked police vehicle brought in bodies, some of which were killed in the latest conflict. The mortuary was filled with charred and battered bodies.
In an apparent move to prevent new outbreaks of violence, the Kaduna state government ordered all hospitals where bodies were deposited not to allow relatives of the deceased to collect or even identify bodies.
At the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Kaduna, a hospital matron said that they had been instructed by police not to allow anyone into the mortuary or for any body to be removed.
The government began mass burials on May 24.
Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.