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Wednesday, November 3, 1999 Published at 12:25 GMT

World: Africa

Security tight after Lagos riots

Security is tight in parts of Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, after a fourth day of ethnic clashes which have left at least 12 people dead.

Police said on Tuesday that calm had been restored to the Ajegunle suburb - where hostilities began on Friday night - after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed.

Anti-riot patrols have been stepped up in the neighbourhoods of Mile Two, Badiya and Amuwo-Odofin, which also saw unrest.

Confirming the death toll, Lagos Police Commissioner Mike Okiro said four officers had been among the many people injured in the street battles.

He said 54 people had appeared in court on Tuesday in connection with the bloodshed.

Some newspapers have reported up to 15 deaths.

Nigerian television said all commercial activity in the affected areas was at a standstill.

Plea for calm

An emergency meeting has been held, chaired by the state governor of Lagos, Bola Tinobu, involving elders from the Yoruba and Ijaw groups to discuss the ethnic disturbances which broke out in Ajegunle last Friday

They agreed to an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Earlier the governor visited the area in an attempt to calm tensions.

He said he could not continue to tolerate the breakdown of law and order, but said efforts were being made by his government to provide employment for young people.

"You owe to us obedience and respect to the rule of law and humanity," he said.

Link to Delta fighting

The original flare-up involved the Ijaw and Ilaje people who have been involved in violent clashes in the Niger Delta region where both groups originate.

The Ilajes are closely related to the Yorubas - the largest ethnic group in Lagos - and radical Yoruba youths later became heavily involved in the fighting.

Ijaw and Yoruba youths set dozens of houses and shops ablaze, and police accused them of carrying out execution-style killings.

Residents flee

Frightened residents continued to flee Ajegunle on Tuesday. Some were taking all their possessions into nearby military barracks. Dozens of shops have been destroyed, while others are now abandoned and securely boarded up.

Many property owners have written their ethnic origin in large writing on their outside walls so as not to be identified as a member of the two warring groups.

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