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Muslims in Nigeria Set Ablaze Nine Churches in Niger State

Militants kill 10 Christians, attack Baptist pastors at conference in Kontagora.

by Obed Minchakpu

ABUJA , Nigeria , February 24 (Compass Direct) – Muslim rioters last night killed 10 Christians and set ablaze nine churches in Kontagora , Niger state, Christian sources said.

The militants in the central Nigerian town of Kontagora joined their counterparts in northern Nigeria to protest what Muslims regard as blasphemy of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, in cartoons published by a newspaper in Denmark .

“The Muslim fanatics attacked Christians and burnt churches throughout the night,” Joseph Bawa, a Christian resident of Kontagora, told Compass by telephone.

The militants clubbed Bawa and his family, he said. “I was beaten up by these Muslims, it is only God that saved me – I would have been killed,” he said.

The Rev. Samuel Ayuba Shaba , secretary of the Niger state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), confirmed the destruction of the churches and the attack on Christians.

“Nine churches have been burnt by Muslims in Kontagora, and Baptist pastors who were attending a conference there were also attacked,” Rev. Shaba said.

According to Rev. Shaba, the pastors of the Niger/Kebbi Conference of the Nigerian Baptist Convention were attacked as they were in a worship service on Thursday night.

Muslim protests against the caricatures of Muhammad turned violent in Maiduguri , Borno state, and in Katsina, Katsina state, over the weekend, leaving more than 50 Christians dead (see Compass Direct, “Cartoon Protest Violence Spreads to Nigeria ,” February 20). Muslims also reportedly killed 25 Christians on Monday and Tuesday (February 20-21) in the northern city of Bauchi over an alleged blasphemy of the Quran. Rioting in the northern city of Gombe reportedly resulted from the alleged death by torture of a young man.

The Muslim violence in the north sparked fierce reprisals from Christians in southern Nigeria , where attacks this week in Onitsha and surrounding towns in Anambra state left at least 80 people dead.

Today another outbreak of violence was reported in Potiskum, in the northern state of Yobe. Yobe, like Niger state, has implemented sharia, the Islamic legal system. Muslim youths reportedly burned churches and houses belonging to Christians in Potiskum, and 65 rioters were arrested.

In Enugu , of the southern state of the same name, Christian reprisal attacks reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least seven Muslims. According to Reuters, the attacks were rumored to have been sparked by a Muslim policeman killing a Christian boy.