Deadly Nigeria clashes in north as elections loom

The violence could derail President`s promise to hold free and fair polls.

Kano: Deadly clashes have already broken out between supporters of rival politicians in Nigeria`s mainly Muslim north, months ahead of elections, and observers say the situation is likely to worsen.

Witnesses and residents say more than a dozen people have been killed in separate incidents in recent weeks in the north of Africa`s most populous nation, with Presidential, Legislative and State Elections expected in January.

Authorities confirm clashes have taken place, but say they have resulted in only a few deaths.

The violence could derail President Goodluck Jonathan`s promise to hold free and fair elections and threatens a repeat of the 2007 vote, which was widely viewed as illegitimate due to intimidation and rigging.

"It is quite frightening," Mohammed Suleiman Argungu, former deputy governor of northern Kebbi state, said.

"The fact that we have started witnessing bloody political violence even before political campaigns start is a prelude to the chaos and bloodletting that lay ahead as we move towards elections."

Clashes between Christians and Muslims have killed hundreds this year in some parts of the country, and many say those have also been stoked by rival political factions.

There have also been fears that an Islamic sect that launched an uprising last year is again plotting attacks, with seven police officers killed in recent months by gunmen on motorcycles.

But the recent northern clashes appear more strictly linked to politics.

The latest flare-up occurred in Bauchi state during a by-election about two weeks ago in which one person was killed and several others were injured, according to residents and witnesses.

Supporters of the ruling People`s Democratic Party and newly formed opposition Congress for Progressive Change attacked each other at a polling station in the state capital, also called Bauchi.

One voter, Umar Baffa, said clubs, knives and machetes were used in the fight.

Three weeks earlier, six people died in the city in three separate clashes between supporters of rival politicians as they hung competing campaign posters, residents said. Police did not respond to requests for comment.

In Zamfara state, eight people were recently killed in clashes between supporters of an ex-governor who is now a senator and those of the incumbent governor during a rally, reporters who covered the event said. Police say three were killed.

In addition, a clash between supporters of the Kebbi state governor and those of his predecessor at a wedding ceremony in the town of Zuru recently is believed to have left scores seriously injured.

A source in the governor`s office confirmed the incident but did not comment on the number of injured.

Bureau Report

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