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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 12:48 GMT
Violence mars Nigerian party elections
Two Nigerian men fighting in the street
Warri has a history of ethnic violence
Reports from Nigeria say dozens of people have been killed in ethnic clashes in the south and the north-west of the country.

The worst violence occurred in the southern oil-producing city of Warri, where at least eight people were killed and several buildings were set on fire. Another witness reported seeing 18 bodies on the street.

I just saw at least five dead bodies, including that of a soldier

Resident of Warri
The fighting in Warri started on Friday between members of the Urhobo and Itsekiri ethnic groups after a dispute over primaries for the ruling People's Democratic Party, ahead of a number of elections this year.

Meanwhile, the deadline given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) for the submission of names of candidates has been extended to 11 February.

'Marginalised'

On Monday morning, rifle shots could still be heard in a no-go area of Warri barricaded by police.

In other areas, the soldiers had taken over and those behind the fighting had left the streets.

Election schedule
12 April, 2003: federal parliament
19 April: presidential and state governors
3 May: regional assemblies
26, 29 April: Possible presidential run-offs
But local residents carrying their belongings on their heads said they were afraid to go home.

"I just saw at least five dead bodies, including that of a soldier," a resident told the Associated Press news agency.

The BBC's Robert Efanakpo in Warri says that the Urhobo felt marginalised after a court rejected a proposal to create new electoral wards.

Primaries for the presidential election were held last month, but other primaries are taking place for the various polls in April and May.

Precedents

Violence between the Urhobo and the Itsekiri in 1998 and 1999 killed hundreds in the region, where several multi-national oil companies have operations.

In north-eastern Taraba state, 10 people were killed in fighting between nomads and farmers.

The trouble erupted on Saturday after a dispute between a farmer and a nomad escalated into a pitched battle between groups armed with hand-made weapons.

Armed police sent to the area, a village outside the town of Wukari, 400 kilometres (240 miles) west of Abuja, made several arrests.

There are fears that Nigeria's general election, scheduled for April, will spark more violence between different ethnic and religious groups.


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21 Jan 03 | Africa
09 Jan 03 | Africa
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