Nigerian rights group says more than 500 killed in unrest

April 26, 2011 - 0:0

KANO (AFP)— The explosion of unrest that followed Nigeria's presidential election has left more than 500 people dead, a local rights group said Sunday, as fears mounted over upcoming governorship ballots.

Authorities have declined to confirm any death toll figures fearing reprisal attacks, though the Red Cross has spoken of many killed and says some 74,000 were displaced.
“The updated figure is about 516,” said Shehu Sani, head of the Civil Rights Congress organization based in the northern state of Kaduna. He said most of the deaths counted occurred in southern areas of Kaduna state. The organization gathers the numbers through its coordinators on the ground, Sani said.
“It can be a lot more,” he said. “We are still getting the compiling.” The violence erupted over President Goodluck Jonathan's election win over his northern rival Muhammadu Buhari in April 16 polls.
Rioting broke out in the country and impoverished north over the election that saw Jonathan, a southern Christian, defeat Buhari with 57 percent of the vote compared to the northerner's 31 percent.
It quickly spread across the region, leading to mobs roaming the streets with machetes and sticks, dragging people from cars and burning victims' homes and shops.
Churches were also set alight, and Muslims were targeted in revenge attacks. A number of communities in southern Kaduna state are Christian-dominated, and Muslims have accused them of instigating the violence in those areas.
Analysts say the riots had more to do with poverty and economic marginalization in the north than religion.
Many in the north had turned their hopes to Buhari, an ex-military ruler known for his “war against indiscipline” during his time in power in the 1980s. Nigeria remains on edge following the unrest, particularly ahead of governorship elections on Tuesday in most of Nigeria's 36 states. In the main northern city of Kano on Sunday, some attended Easter mass at military and police barracks where they have taken refuge, while others went to their regular churches.