Thousands of angy Muslims took to the streets in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, on Tuesday, to protest at the killing of more than 600 fellow Muslims in a brutal attack by Christian gunmen in the town of Yelwa earlier this month.
Schools and businesses closed in panic as protesters burned cars and Christian-owned businesses. Islamic clerics who led the march said there was a Western conspiracy to kill Muslims.
“Muslims are tired of the killing of their brothers in this country, especially with what is going on in Yelwa,” Umar Ibrahim Kabo, head of Kano’s Council of Ulammah (Clerics) told the protesters.
Based on the accounts of survivors, the Nigerian Red Cross has estimated that more than 600 Muslims were killed in the 2 May attack attack on Yelwa, a small mainly Muslim town in Plateau State in central Nigeria. Most of them were from the Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups which dominate northern Nigeria.
The attack was carried out by militiamen from the mainly Christian Tarok ethnic group wielding machetes and automatic rifles. They poured kerosene over many houses and burned them down with their residents still inside.
“This violence is a calculated Western global war against Muslims, just like what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Kabo told the crowd of angry demonstrators in Kano.
He called on President Olusegun Obasanjo to arrest those responsible for the attack within seven days or accept “blame for whatever happens”.
The protesters burned effigies of US president George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before marching to the office of the Kano State governor Ibrahim Shekarau.
Shekarau told the crowds not to attack innocent people, but he warned them to be ready to lay down their lives to safeguard their rights and honour as Muslims.
“If the killing of Muslims throughout the world and Nigeria is done to intimidate us…it will only embolden us,” the governor said.
Human Rights Watch accused the Nigerian government of not doing enough to safeguard the residents of Yelwa.
The New York-based organisation said in a statement on Tuesday that the Christian attack on the town was the latest in a series of violent incidents in the area and could have been averted.
“The government’s neglect of the situation in Plateau over the last three years has resulted in an endless cycle of revenge,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch Africa Division.
The group urged the Nigerian government to investigate the attack and take urgent steps to end the cycle of violence.
Plateau State has been rocked by intermittent bursts of ethnic and religious clashes and attacks since 2001, when about 1,000 people were killed in violence between Christians and Muslims in the state capital of Jos.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions