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9 Christians Killed in Nigeria After Blasphemy-Sparked Violence

Over the weekend at least nine Christians were killed, churches were set on fire, and businesses and homes destroyed in the Tundun Wada area of Kano State, Nigeria, according to reports.

The violence, allegedly committed by Muslim youths, followed unspecified claims that Christians had blasphemed the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

According to sources on the ground, not a single Christian church, house or business had been left undamaged and an unknown number of people were injured and displaced during the violence, reported U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which monitors persecution of Christians internationally.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), meanwhile, has received reports indicating that the authorities in Tundun Wada, in an attempt to disguise the true extent of the violence and injuries, have evacuated Christians and other non-Muslims to neighboring Bauchi State.

Kano is a notoriously volatile state where regular bouts of anti-Christian violence have at times resulted in massacres.

More recent tensions have reportedly been rising throughout northern and central Nigeria following allegations of blasphemy. These include two differing stories on the publication of a new cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed, reports that a Christian youth left the name of Jesus written on a school blackboard, and rumors that a dispute between school pupils was related to religion.

Speaking on behalf of the Christian community following the violence, CAN National Secretary Eng. Samuel Salifu said: "We are pleading for the government to step in. I am directly telling President Yar'Adua because this may be a very good litmus test for his administration."

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), meanwhile, said, "We are saddened and outraged by what has happened over the past weekend in Nigeria.

"It is vital that the both state and federal authorities act decisively to bring the perpetrators to justice and to compensate the victims for their losses," he added.

Responding on behalf of the government, Federal Vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has pledged that the new regime would soon convene a national religious conference to address the cycle of religious violence that has affected Nigeria in recent years.

Thomas said CSW welcomed the federal government's plans "as a starting point" and hopes that the debate will lead to "effective action to end the religious violence and discrimination that has had such an adverse affect on this key African nation."

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