Christian-Muslim Clash Kills 11 in Nigeria

Sectarian violence in northern Nigeria this past weekend left at least 11 people dead, police and Red Cross officials said Monday.

Violence broke out Saturday when Muslim youths attacked Christians and burned churches in Bauchi state, according to Agence France Presse. In total, six churches and about a dozen houses were torched, Red Cross officials said.

The conflict also left nearly 40 people injured.

Local Muslims say the attack on Christians is retaliation for two mosques that went up in flames during the early morning hours on Saturday. Muslims blamed local Christians for the burning of the mosques.

But even before the burnt mosques, relations between Muslims and Christians in Bauchi were strained when a truck broke down on the road between the church and the mosque on Feb. 13, according to AFP. Muslims going to a Friday prayer meeting had overflowed and began using the narrow space between the truck and the church to get to the mosque.

Members of the Pentecostal church, however, set up barricades outside of the church to prevent Muslims from using the path between the truck and the church, sparking anger among local Muslims.

Police soon intervened by removing the barricades and calmed both sides. But then at around 3 a.m. on Saturday, two mosques were on fire and Muslims accused Christians of arson. Muslim youths then went on a rampage against Christians and churches.

In Nigeria, Muslim-Christian clashes are not new. The country's population is nearly equally divided between Muslims, who dominate the north, and Christians who live mainly in the south.

Last November, more than 300 people died in Muslim-Christian clashes when riots broke out in the central state of Plateau. Four years earlier, Plateau was also the site of sectarian violence that killed 700 people and destroyed over 100 churches. The 2004 conflict was over a land dispute between two ethnically and religiously different groups.

As for the latest sectarian clash, police have arrested seven people linked to the violence and have enforced a dusk to dawn curfew.

Hundreds of people still remain displaced by the violence, with many taking refuge in military barracks, churches and two Red Cross camps, according to AFP.

According to the persecution watchdog agency Compass Direct news, more than 10,000 people have died because of Muslim and Christian conflicts since 1999.