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Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 12:57 GMT
Nigeria violence rages on
People flee the fighting in Kaduna
Rioting erupted after a press article angered Muslims
Further rioting has broken out in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, despite the decision to abandon the country's attempt to host this year's Miss World beauty contest.


We are being used as the excuse. People are killing each other and saying it is all about Miss World - I can't have that.

Miss Scotland
More casualties have been reported, and eyewitnesses say security forces have been shooting to try to control a large crowd of demonstrators.

The decision to switch the venue for the competition to London came hours after the rioting - which has claimed more than 100 lives in Kaduna - spread to the capital Abuja, with Muslim youths rampaging through the streets.

Miss World contestants - who have been in Nigeria for nearly two weeks, attending preliminary events in mainly Christian, southern areas - are due to fly out of the country on Saturday.

Evangelical Church of West Africa of Kaduna
Churches in Kaduna were among buildings attacked
A spokeswoman for the organisers said the decision to leave had been taken "in order to stop the bloodshed, for the sake of the nation".

"As every day passes, it became increasingly difficult to distance ourselves from that, even though we believe this violence is not connected to us", Stella Din said.

One of the contestants, Paula Murphy - Miss Scotland - said Miss World was not worth dying for.

"We're being used as the excuse. People are killing each other and saying it is all about Miss World - I can't have that. I'm coming home", she told Britain's Sun newspaper.

Offending article

The trouble was triggered when an article in Nigeria's ThisDay 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.

Violence escalated and turned into pitched battles after Muslim youths attacked the Kaduna office of ThisDay.

The newspaper said on Saturday that its editor, Simon Kolawole, had been detained by secret police.

Isolated clashes continued into the night in Kaduna on Friday and violence erupted again on Saturday.

More than 1,000 people have taken refuge in a local brewery compound guarded by soldiers.

A photographer for the French news agency AFP told the BBC he had had to flee for his life amid battles between soldiers and demonstrators.

He said he had seen several dead bodies on the streets and that the situation looked very serious indeed.

The clashes in Kaduna - one of the most volatile cities in Nigeria - have so far left more than 100 dead and 500 injured, according to Red Cross officials.

Buildings and cars were also set alight and four churches are reported to have been destroyed. Burnt-out car tyres litter the streets.

Irresponsible journalism

Thousands of people have been displaced, the Red Cross says.

Police and soldiers were deployed in large numbers to try to contain the violence, and a curfew was imposed.

Two years ago, the city saw more than 2,000 deaths in clashes between Christians and Muslims.

ThisDay said on Saturday that its editor Simon Kolawole had been arrested by men of the State Security Service in Abuja on Friday in connection with the article that caused offence to Muslims. A reporter for the paper, Isioma Daniel, had also been asked to report to the SSS office.

Nigeria's President, Olusegun Obasanjo, earlier promised that those responsible for what it called "irresponsible journalism" would be brought to account.

The newspaper has retracted the article and published apologies.

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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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