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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 15:42 GMT
Troops move to quell Lagos riots
Hausa resident fleeing
Residents have been fleeing the violence
Nigerian soldiers are reported to have joined forces with police to help contain a third day of ethnic clashes in the country's commercial capital, Lagos.

The rioting in Mushin district comes as Lagos still reels from last month's blast at an army barracks that led to the loss of more than 1,000 lives.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard as smoke rose over the area from buildings set on fire by the rioters.

A Hausa bleeds after a machete attack
The fighting broke out between rival ethnic groups

The fighting between members of the Yoruba community and ethnic Hausas began on Saturday night.

Thousands of residents are reported to have fled their homes.

Many of the families moving out are Hausa speakers, from the north of the country, who feel vulnerable in an overwhelmingly Yoruba city, even though they may have been born in Lagos and lived there all their lives.

The BBC correspondent in Lagos, Dan Isaacs, said people fleeing the violence talked of gangs wielding machetes, but it was hard to get a true picture of what was happening amid the chaos.

Residents leave Lagos
Some of those leaving have lived in the area all their lives

"One man... sweating and with a gash in his right arm told me he'd been unloading trucks when a gang of what he described as a Hausa youths, set upon him," our correspondent reported.

"He escaped with his life, but others have not been so fortunate.

"There are many dead, he told me, and others are still being attacked."

Burning houses

A Lagos University Teaching Hospital spokesman, near the scene of the trouble, told AFP news agency that more bodies were on the streets since fighting resumed early on Monday morning.

"The situation is serious. They are burning houses and fighting," Ayo Olagunju said.

The Red Cross says the death toll from the three days of clashes has risen to 55.

Many houses were burnt down and market stalls destroyed.

Nigeria's civilian government is struggling to keep a lid on ethnic tensions, with thousands having died since the end of military rule some three years ago.

Inquiry

But our correspondent in Lagos says this violence has far more to do with poverty and lack of opportunity, than with animosity between ethnic and religious groups.


We have to see how we prevent these types of panics in the future

Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerian President
Meanwhile, Nigeria's president promised on Sunday that the results of an inquiry would be made public into a series of explosions at an army weapons store in Lagos which left more than 1,000 people dead.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has been criticised for his handling of one of the country's worst disasters and his government's neglect of those made homeless by the devastation.

Two parliamentary inquiries have also been set up to investigate the cause of the blasts, which were reported to have been set off accidentally by a fire.

But a group of human rights lawyers have said they suspect political sabotage.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Dan Isaacs in Lagos
"What we're looking at is a clash between two different communities"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Africa
Nigerian troops' anger boils over
28 Jan 02 | Africa
Eyewitness: Canal deaths
28 Jan 02 | Africa
Eyewitness: Lagos blast
29 Jan 02 | Africa
In pictures: Lagos explosions
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