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Nigeria: Neighbors became enemies in election riot

A Nigerian police officer guards suspects from the riots as they await a court hearing in Kaduna on Wednesday. About 200 people were arraigned in local court.

Associated Press

A Nigerian police officer guards suspects from the riots as they await a court hearing in Kaduna on Wednesday. About 200 people were arraigned in local court.

KADUNA, Nigeria — In the time it took to raise a machete or shout the name of a political party, neighbors again became enemies over politics split along religious lines in northern Nigeria.

At least 70 people died this week after Muslim mobs targeted supporters of the oil-rich nation's ruling party, while retaliatory attacks by Christians followed with a startling speed.

Those who survived almost uniformly said they did not know their attackers, though many looked away or quickly changed the subject as their homes lie in smoldered ruins. Others displayed incredible bravery, risking their own lives to rescue those of a different faith.

About 40,000 have now fled their homes, and it remains unclear whether some will return to their damaged homes to live among the very same people who wanted them dead. The town of Kaduna has seen spasms of sectarian violence over the last decade that have left more than 2,000 dead.

"It shows you how heartless human beings can be," said Nathan Isaac, a 23-year-old student who was visiting a hospital treating the wounded.

The rioting began Sunday across Nigeria's Muslim north, as early election results showed President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the nation's south, with an insurmountable lead over Muslim opposition candidate and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. Muslim rioters overwhelmed police and burned homes, churches and police stations. Christians began reprisal attacks soon after.

Nigeria: Neighbors became enemies in election riot 04/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011 12:04am]

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