Onitsha. February 23, 2006. AN enraged mob of Nigerian Christian youths has slaughtered dozens of Muslims in two days of rioting in the southern city of Onitsha, witnesses said.
Rioting broke out in the lawless trading town on the banks of the Niger River yesterday when members of the Igbo tribe launched revenge attacks in response to an earlier massacre of Christians in the north of the country.
Nineteen corpses were seen scattered by the side of the main road into the city across the Niger River bridge, where a contingent of soldiers had set up a roadblock to hold back hundreds of rioters armed with clubs and machetes.
The bodies had been beaten, slashed and in some cases burnt. Around the bloodied corpses lay scattered the caps and Islamic prayer beads associated with the northern Hausa tribe.
A police official had earlier said five more Hausas had been killed in the neighbouring city of Asaba, across the bridge, to where thousands of Muslims fled to escape the mayhem in Onitsha.
Frank Nweke, a magazine editor who ran the gauntlet of the mob to escape Onitsha and made it to the bridge, said he had seen 15 more corpses lying in the streets of the city.
"Some of them had been beheaded, others had had their genitals removed. I saw one boy holding a severed head with blood dripping from it," he said.
Army officers at the scene could not confirm a total death toll in the city, where control has not yet been restored, but said thousands of Muslims had taken shelter in barracks and police stations.(The Guardian)