Christian-Muslim Fighting Raises Doubts Over Nigerian Elections

GOVERNMENT militia patrolled deserted streets in the northern city of Kaduna, where tension remained high after some of Nigeria's worst ethnic violence in a decade.

Residents said up to 300 people had been killed in two days of fighting that left areas of the city and two nearby towns in the predominantly Muslim Kaduna State looking like war zones.

Most shops, banks, and other businesses remained closed yesterday.

The fighting, which started as a dispute over farmland in the market town of Zango-Kataf Friday and spread to Kaduna Sunday, followed riots over poverty in Lagos, Nigeria's biggest city.

Zango-Kataf residents said the fighting was between members of the Muslim Hausa and Christian Kataf groups.

Further violence could jeopardize the plans to restore full civilian rule next January, Western diplomats said.

In a move to defuse tensions that have troubled Nigeria since independence from Britain in 1960, the government has outlawed political groupings along ethnic, religious, and other lines ahead of presidential polls Dec. 5.

In an official statement, Justice Minister Clement Akpangbo said that people contravening the order faced $5,400 fines or three years in jail.

"It is the government's view that the aim of breaking down narrow ethnic barriers in our search for credible leadership ... can be completely destroyed if the activities of these assocations are allowed to continue," he said.

The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Lagos said it was appalled that Nigerians would turn to violence over a communal dispute.

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