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Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 00:39 GMT
Nigeria calls off Miss World show
Nigerian guards surround unidentified Miss World contestant
The situation on Nigeria's streets is tense
The Miss World contest is moving to London from Nigeria after riots by Muslim youths opposed to the show left more than 100 people dead in the city of Kaduna.

The pageant's organisers said the show would be held in London on 7 December instead of the Nigerian capital, Abuja.


This decision was taken after careful consideration of all the issues involved

Contest organisers
In Abuja, police say they have regained control of the streets after violent protests spread to the city over the plans to hold the contest there.

Hundreds of Muslim youths went on the rampage following Friday prayers, in an echo of the bloodshed which left at least 100 people dead and 500 injured in Kaduna this week.

Kaduna is now under curfew after three days of violence, but the BBC's Dan Isaacs reports that isolated clashes continued into the night.

In a statement, the pageant organisers said the change of venue was in the "overall interests of Nigeria and the contestants".

Pageant publicist Stella Din added: "The show definitely will go on".

Appeal for calm

Hours earlier, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo went on television along with religious leaders to appeal for national calm, blaming a media report, not the contest itself, for the violence.

"It could happen at any time irresponsible journalism is committed against Islam," he said.

The protests began after a newspaper suggested that the Prophet Mohammed would have probably chosen to marry one of the Miss World contestants if he had witnessed the beauty pageant in Abuja.

The Nigerian Government has assured Muslims that those responsible for the offending article, which appeared in ThisDay newspaper, will be brought to account.

ThisDay has retracted it and has published apologies.

Christians targeted

Police in Abuja made 27 arrests on Friday and at least one policeman was injured during the unrest, along with an unknown number of demonstrators or civilians.

Refugees in Kaduna
Fighting in Kaduna prompted many people to flee their homes

BBC correspondent Haruna Bahago reports that protesters armed with sticks, daggers and knives set fire to vehicles and attacked anyone they suspected of being Christian.

Many people suffered either knife wounds or beatings as the rioters advanced on Abuja's central market.

Our correspondent was himself surrounded by a group of angry Muslim radicals, who suspected he was Christian, and he had to shout "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) until they let him go.

Our correspondent in Kaduna says the streets are virtually deserted except for army patrols and the scars of the rioting are visible everywhere.

Burnt-out tyres and the shells of cars line the streets, and buildings set alight by the rioters are still smouldering.

Abuja's main mosque
Miss World contestants are staying near Abuja's main mosque
Two years ago the city saw more than 2,000 deaths in clashes between Christians and Muslims.

In a BBC interview, Nigerian singing star Femi Kuti backed the opponents of the pageant, although he condemned the religious origin of protests.

"Why are they making Nigeria and Africa divided? We have enough problems," he told Newshour on the BBC World Service.

Miss Northern Ireland, Gail Williamson, became the latest contestant to pull out of the contest on Friday. Her mother Olga Simms said she was concerned for her daughter's safety.

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Dan Isaacs
"The cancellation of the Miss World contest comes as little surprise"
Cameron Duodu, writer on Nigerian affairs
"The muslims don't want the contest in Nigeria"
Guy Murray-Bruce, Miss World publicist
"It's just a form of entertainment which in a democratic setting should be allowed"

Miss World row

Analysis

Features

BACKGROUND

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Turning ugly
Miss World: Was it right to quit Nigeria?
See also:

22 Nov 02 | Africa
22 Nov 02 | Africa
22 Nov 02 | Entertainment
22 Nov 02 | N Ireland
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