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Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 22:41 GMT
Ten killed in Nigeria clashes
A Nigerian marketplace after a riot
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, fled after the clashes
Dan Isaacs

An angry crowd in northern Nigeria has killed seven policemen.

Three civilians also died in the disturbances, which erupted on Friday afternoon in Danja, a market town in Katsina state.


The incident has prompted particular concern because Nigeria's security forces have a reputation for reacting strongly when their own members are killed.

The events began soon after midday, when a man pushing a cart knocked into a policeman, apparently by accident.

Witnesses in the town say that even though the cart pusher apologised, the policeman struck him with such force that the man died instantly.

On seeing this, people in the market then attacked the policeman, who managed to escape and return to his headquarters.

Hundreds flee

Police reinforcements arrived in the town soon after, by which time an angry crowd had gathered.

In the ensuing confusion all that is clear is that the police attempted to disperse the crowd but were themselves overpowered, seven of them losing their lives, along with three townspeople.

Matters did not end there.

More police reinforcements soon arrived in the town and all that is known about this latest assault on Danja is that hundreds, perhaps thousands of people have fled the town.

A BBC reporter who tried to enter the town said he was prevented from doing so by tear-gas and the surrounding confusion.

These are unstable times in Nigeria; the security forces have a difficult task containing the all-too-frequent outbreaks of violence across the country.

But sometimes, despite a return to civilian rule two and a half years ago, the police and the army still appear to act as if they are answerable to no one but themselves.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Dan Isaacs
"The spark setting off the riots was extremely small"
See also:

13 Jan 02 | Africa
Dozens killed in Nigerian clashes
11 Jan 02 | Africa
Nigeria's turbulent prospects
24 Oct 01 | Africa
Nigeria: Crisis in Benue state
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
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