39 die in Nigerian sectarian violence

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Updated 05 May 2013
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39 die in Nigerian sectarian violence

KANO, Nigeria: Thirty-nine people died and 30 were injured in fierce fighting between Christian and Muslim mobs in central Nigeria’s Taraba state on Friday, prompting a round-the-clock curfew, police said.
Scores of houses were set ablaze and destroyed during the clashes in the town of Wukari, which come amid a surge in religious violence in the west African nation.
“We have so far compiled a death toll of 39 people while 30 others were seriously injured,” state police spokesman Joseph Kwaji said yesterday.
Local residents said that the death toll could rise.
“Thirty-two houses have also been destroyed in the violence,” Kwaji said of the unrest, which has prompted authorities to impose an indefinite all-round curfew in the predominantly Christian city. He added that 40 suspects were arrested in the aftermath of the violence.
State information commissioner Emmanuel Bello said that extra troops were deployed to the city on Saturday to bolster security.
“We have deployed more troops today to Wukari to ensure that the situation, which has been brought under control, is strengthened,” he said.
The police spokesman Kwaji said Friday’s violence erupted when the funeral procession of a traditional chief from the predominantly Christian Jukun ethnic group marched through a Muslim neighborhood chanting slogans, which Muslims viewed as an act of provocation.
“The state governor has imposed a 24-hour curfew on Wukari which is aimed at restoring normalcy in the town” after the fighting, said Kefas Sule, spokesman for the state governor.
Tensions have been on the rise in Wukari since February, when a dispute over the use of a football pitch between Muslim and Christian soccer teams set off sectarian riots that claimed several lives.
Friday’s violence came a day after the state government inaugurated a committee to investigate the February violence.
It also follows a surge in violence and kidnappings in the restive north of Nigeria, the epicenter of an insurgency by Boko Haram, in recent months.
In late April fighting between soldiers and Islamic fighters in the remote northeastern town of Baga left 187 dead, according to the Red Cross, in the deadliest episode since the insurgency began in 2009.
An area senator put the death toll from the attack at 228, but details remain murky about the clashes, which also left nearly half the town destroyed after massive fires.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday released satellite images showing massive destruction in Baga, voicing concern that the military has “tried to cover up” abuses that should be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
The military has pushed back aggressively against these reports and fiercely denied claims that soldiers fired on civilians or deliberately torched scores of homes.
The global rights watchdog said the insurgency in north and central Nigeria by Boko Haram has claimed 3,600 lives since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
Nigeria’s former oil minister, Shettima Ali Monguno, 87, was kidnapped Friday by gunmen who stormed his vehicle outside a mosque in the restive city of Maiduguri, a stronghold of Boko Haram.
Government and security officials met late Friday in Maiduguri to discuss ways to effect his safe release, officials said.


Russia says US building ‘visa wall’ after Bolshoi dancers denied entry

Updated 20 min 38 sec ago
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Russia says US building ‘visa wall’ after Bolshoi dancers denied entry

  • The Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the United States’ decision to refuse visas to Russian prima ballerina Olga Smirnova and soloist dancer Jacopo Tissi.
  • Russian Foreign Ministry: “They are trying to fence off Americans from Russians with a visa wall, as we’ve said before, making trips of our citizens to the USA practically impossible.”

MOSCOW: Russia said on Saturday the United States was trying to fence off Russians with a “visa wall” after two Bolshoi ballet dancers were refused visas to perform in New York.
The Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the United States’ decision to refuse visas to Russian prima ballerina Olga Smirnova and soloist dancer Jacopo Tissi, who were due to perform at a Lincoln Center gala.
“This did not happen even during the Cold War,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.
“But today, influential forces in the USA, preoccupied with trying to pressure Russia hard, do not stop at anything... They are trying to fence off Americans from Russians with a visa wall, as we’ve said before, making trips of our citizens to the USA practically impossible,” it said.
Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre said it could not comment because it did not organize the tour and had no information on the visa applications.
“Since the work visa was also not issued on time for Jacopo Tissi, an Italian national, we would like to think that this was related to procedural formalities and not to the current political tensions,” its press office said in emailed comments.
The US embassy in Moscow did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
On Friday, Kremlin said the United States was deliberately making it difficult for Aeroflot crews to obtain US visas, after the Russian foreign ministry said it could not rule out the possibility that flights between the two countries might have to be halted because of the situation.