Muslim rioters, incensed over the cartoons of Muhammad published in Denmark, were responsible for killing at least 130 Christians on the streets of Maiduguri and Onitsha in Nigeria, according to reports filtering out of the country from Voice of the Martyrs.
At least 51 Christians are confirmed dead in the Maiduguri attacks that took place Saturday. In the rampage, more than 150 homes and 32 churches were burned, and 85 shops were destroyed. Authorities were finally able to control the volatile scene after arresting 114 and having militia enforce a curfew.
The mayhem began when Muslims staged their demonstration against degrading caricatures of Muhammad that were originally published in September 2005 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. Even though the cartoons were by no means a Christian attack on Islam, Muslims in Nigeria and throughout the world have turned their rage toward Christians – many of whom have never even heard of the controversial sketches, reports Voice of the Martyrs.
Muslims were reported running through the streets of Maiduguri threatening people with death and violence if they did not speak their local dialect. Many of the dozens of victims were publicly tortured to death in the city streets.
Amidst the violence, six children were burned to ashes in front of their father, Joseph Tukwa, who was unable to rescue them. Six Christian leaders, including the Rev. Joshua Adamu, were injured and are now in hiding. Church of Christ in Nigeria, Living Faith Church, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, St. Augustine’s Catholic Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church were some of the churches set ablaze by rioters, who killed two Catholic priests. St. Rita’s Catholic Church was also torched. The Rev. Fr. Matthew Gajere was murdered and then burned after he helped several altar boys escape to safety.
In total, at least 123 people have been killed in the last four days of violence across Nigeria.
At least 80 people, mostly Christians, were slaughtered during two days of violence in Onitsha, leading Nigerian human rights group Civil Liberties Organization, said yesterday.
“We counted at least 60 dead on Tuesday, and on Wednesday no less than 20,” said Emeka Umeh, who heads CLO in Anambra State.
With Nigeria’s population of 126 million people roughly split between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian majority south, analysts say the cartoon controversy has simply served as a spark for this latest episode of sectarian violence.