LAGOS, NIGERIA — NIGERIAN authorities have moved swiftly to crack down on some of the worst Christian-Muslim violence in a decade, which they fear could threaten a planned return to civilian rule. Up to 84 people are reported to have been killed in Bauchi State, and up to 12 Christian churches burned in violence instigated by Shiite Muslims seeking the imposition of sharia (Islamic law).
The military governor imposed an overnight curfew in the mainly-Muslim northern state.
Witnesses in the state capital Bauchi reported an overflowing mortuary. In addition, several hundred injuries and armored cars and anti-riot vehicles were reported in the streets of the city.
Monday's clashes in Bauchi brought back memories of the early 1980s when several thousand people were killed in religious riots triggered by fundamentalists in the Muslim-dominated north of Africa's most populous country.
Nigerian officials and state-run news media organizations in both the north and the mainly Christian south have sought to play down the latest outbreak of violence, which began Friday in the northern city of Katsina.
"The government is determined to stamp out any attempt to incite religious violence," an official source said.
Authorities are concerned that the violence could spread to other states in northern Nigeria, further polarizing the north and south and threatening plans to install elected civilian leaders in 1992.
Vice President Augustus Aikhomu, speaking Tuesday before news of the Bauchi violence reached the capital, Lagos, said the transition was on course.
North-south rivalry helped to bring down the two previous civilian administrations in 1966 and 1983.
The Army, which sees itself as upholder of the Constitution, has ruled Nigeria for 20 of the 30 years since it gained independence in 1960.