by Ademola Babalola and David Attah with agency reports
VIOLENCE in the northern states of Kaduna and Yobe spread on Tuesday, necessitating an imposition of a 24-hour curfew on the two states where the death toll in three days of attacks rose to 99.
The casualty figure is made up of 74 deaths recorded in Kaduna between Sunday and Monday and 25 killed in the Damaturu violence.
In Kaduna, soldiers deployed in the city averted a clash between Christian and Muslim youths even as there were reports of an explosion which resulted in a fire outbreak at the Panteka market.
Muslim youths reportedly took to the streets in Kaduna on Tuesday, firing AK-47s, burning tyres and destroying at least one church.
Intermittent gunshots were reportedly heard across the city throughout the day.
“We heard an explosion which led to a fire. An explosion which resulted in a fire outbreak has occurred at the Panteka market destroying many shops. This happened as the attacks were going on in Tudun Wada just before the curfew was reimposed,” Reuters quoted a resident, Bitrus Moses, as narrating.
Before soldiers intervened, youths said to be Muslims from Tundun Wada had set up a bonfire and threatening to avenge the killing of their kin on Sunday.
The youths were said to have also attacked traders at the Sheikh Gumi Central Market.
Our correspondents report that the youths shot at motorists and passers-by. The attacks created pandemonium as residents fled in different directions. Those who had gone to work after the relaxation of the 24-hour curfew by the government had to rush back home.
On learning that Muslim youths were massing for an attack, youths from the predominantly Christian southern part of the state also commenced mobilisation for a confrontation.
Alarmed at the palpable tension, the state governor, Patrick Yakowa, promptly slammed another round-the-clock curfew on the state.
The governor had on Monday relaxed the initial 24-hour curfew it imposed on Sunday following the bombing of three churches and the consequent reprisal by Christian youths.
The violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the churches.
Red Cross spokesman, Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, told the AFP that his teams deployed in Kaduna had alerted him to “ongoing protests.”
In reintroducing total curfew on Tuesday, Yakowa’s spokesman, Reuben Buhari, said the decision of the government to reimpose the curfew was to allow the government to continue with its responsibility of safeguarding lives and properties.
The statement reads, “In view of certain new security challenges that came up today and based on the need for the state government to continue with its responsibility of safeguarding the lives and properties of its citizens, the state government is hereby reimposing a 24-hour curfew in all parts of the state.
“This curfew covers all the 23 local government areas of the state. As unpalatable as this decision is, the state government is doing it in the best interest of the state. Consequently, everybody is strongly advised to go back home now while security agencies continue with the task of ensuring total peace in the state.”
The Yobe State Government also imposed a 24-hour curfew on the state capital, Damaturu, following overnight gunfight between soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force on Operation Restore Order and Boko Haram insurgents in the state capital, Damaturu.
The statement announcing the curfew was signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information, Alhaji Abdullahi Bego.
It directed members of the public to stay at home as security agencies work toward total restoration of law and order.
It called on members of the public to cooperate with the government and various security agencies to ensure that normalcy returned to the state.
In Damaturu, residents reported being confined to their homes due to sporadic gunfire.
A senior official at a Damaturu hospital told the AFP that the gunfire which broke out on Monday had claimed some casualties, but that the streets were too dangerous for rescue workers to move around.
The official, who requested anonymity, was quoted as saying, “We have been holed up in the hospital since yesterday. We can’t leave because it is not safe to go out. The morgue is empty now although there are dead bodies on the street. Fighting is still going on in some parts of the city and the streets are totally deserted.”
AFP also quoted the commander of a military task force in Yobe State, Colonel Dahiru Abdussalam, to have said that the Damaturu unrest started on Monday after authorities arrested a Boko Haram suspect.
“The arrest prompted other members of the group to respond by setting off explosives and shooting indiscriminately,” he said.
The Commissioner of Police in Yobe, Patrick Egbuniwe, on Tuesday confirmed that three policemen were killed while four others were wounded in Monday’s explosions and gun attacks in Damaturu.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria in a telephone interview that the civilian casualty had yet to be ascertained.
“We are still working on that,’’ he said.
The commissioner, however, described the situation in the state capital as “calm.”
“You know government has imposed a 24-hour curfew and we are doing everything possible to restore normalcy and order in Damaturu and the entire state,” he said.
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