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Saturday, 7 July, 2001, 20:19 GMT 21:19 UK
Hand amputation in Nigeria
Police search in the street
The Sharia issue has raised tensions throughout Nigeria
By David Bamford in Abidjan

The authorities in the Nigerian north-western state of Sokoto have amputated the right hand of a 30-year-old man as punishment for stealing a goat, worth about $40.

This is the third such amputation to take place since 11 states in northern Nigeria began introducing strict punishments based on Islamic Sharia law two years ago.

Kaduna mosque
Several states have implemented Sharia law
Officials in the northern Nigerian city of Kano said the punishment was carried out on Friday in a humane manner at a local hospital.

But why this particular man should have had his hand cut off for a relatively minor misdemeanor is unclear.

Although harsh punishments, including being stoned to death, are technically allowed against Muslims for certain crimes under Sharia law, recent eyewitness reports suggest Islamic judges have tended to be lenient.

Many northern Nigerian communities include a significant proportion of non-Muslims who are bitterly hostile to Sharia law, and although the authorities insist that non-Muslims are unaffected by Sharia courts, this is disputed.

The general air of tension across northern and central Nigeria has helped fuel several weeks of inter-communal violence, in which an unknown number of people have been killed.

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See also:

23 Jan 01 | Africa
Nigerian flogging condemned
21 Jun 00 | Africa
Analysis: Sharia takes hold
02 Mar 00 | Africa
Nigerian states defiant on Sharia
27 Jan 00 | Africa
The many faces of Sharia
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