Africa

Billiards dispute triggers deadly Nigeria clashes

  • 28 January 2011
  • From the section Africa
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Sectarian clashes in Nigeria sparked by a dispute over a game of billiards have left four people dead and dozens of buildings on fire, police say.

They broke out in Tafawa Balewa in central Nigeria, a region that has seen an upsurge in violence between rival ethnic, religious and political groups in the last month.

Five mosques and about 50 homes were set alight as youths fought each other.

Police in Bauchi state eventually restored order, using roadblocks

US-based Human Rights Watch says more than 200 have been killed in sectarian violence in central Nigeria in the last month.

The campaign group said people have mainly been killed in tit-for-tat clashes between gangs in the Plateau state, which borders Bauchi.

'Efforts to avoid spillover'

Police commissioner Abdulkadir Mohammed Indabawa said the dispute began on Wednesday night with a disagreement over money between the Christian owner of the billiards table and a Muslim player.

Although the row was settled through mediation by local elders, the table was later burned.

This prompted the trouble and houses and mosques were burnt, he said.

"Clashes followed between Muslim and Christian groups and four people were killed as a result," he said.

Paramilitary police were patrolling the city's streets on Thursday and Mr Indabawa said troops could also join the crackdown.

"We have mounted roadblocks at areas leading to the town to avoid a spillover of the crisis to other areas," he said.

Tafawa Balewa is close to the city of Jos in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt, which sits between the mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south.

The region has been a flashpoint of tension between Hausa-speaking Muslims and ethnic Berom Christians.

It has suffered repeated outbreaks of ethnic violence over the past decade, with deadly riots in 2001, 2008 and last year.

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