Death toll doubles in Nigeria | News | DW | 18.06.2012
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Death toll doubles in Nigeria

Nigeria is reeling after three bombings by radical Islamists claimed the lives of at least 21 Christians. Reprisal killings have raised the death toll to at least 50.

Rescue workers are combing the streets of towns in northern Nigeria on Sunday in an effort to locate bodies.

Three bombings of Christian churches on Saturday led to reprisal killings of Muslims – more than doubling the death toll from the blasts, according to the Nigerian Red Cross.

Medical personnel at St Gerard's hospital attend to victims of a bomb blast at the Shallom Church of God in Kaduna, Nigeria EPA/STR

Boko Haram's aim is to spark sectarian violence

"We are still picking up bodies from reprisals," Musa Ilela, the National Emergency Management Agency coordinator for Kaduna State, said Monday.

The first two suicide bomb attacks hit Saturday within 10 minutes of one another in the city of Zaria. Thirty minutes later, a church was struck in the nearby city of Kaduna. In addition to killing at least 21, another 100 people were wounded.

Claiming responsibility

The radical Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks in the cities of Zaria and Kaduna.

"Allah has given us victory in the attacks we launched (Sunday) against churches in Kaduna and Zaria towns which resulted in the deaths of many Christians and security personnel," the statement from Boko Haram said.

Reprisals prove deadly

Following the attacks, Christian youths set up roadblocks, where they attacked Muslims, dragging them from their cars and motorbikes and beat or burning them to death.

Most of the reprisal victims were petty traders and transporters, such as bus drivers and motorcycle taxi drivers.

Many believe Boko Haram's aim is to spark sectarian violence, as their attacks often target the area between the mostly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

Until now, however, the attacks have failed to spark sustained sectarian conflict, and Muslims and Christians have continued to co-exist peacefully, for the most part.

This weekend's violence led the state government to impose a 24-hour curfew, but that was relaxed on Monday to a dusk-til-dawn curfew. Many banks and businesses remained shut as rescue operations continued.

tm/slk (AP, AFP, Reuters)