Radio Says Fighting Dies Down Following 11 Deaths
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Fighting has died down in the eastern city of Gombe following clashes between police and an outlawed Moslem sect, the state-run radio said. Police said the fighting left three officers and eight civilians dead.
Kaduna Radio said police had begun what it described as ″an intensive patrol″ of the areas where the disturbances occurred Friday.
The radio said that according to reports from Gombe, members of the banned Maitatsine sect had deserted an uncompleted building in the Pantami district of Gombe where the attacks started.
Gombe, which has an estimated population of one million, is about 600 miles northeast of the Nigerian capital Lagos and about 260 miles east of the city of Kaduna.
The semi-official News Agency of Nigeria initially reported Friday that hundreds of people, including civilians, were feared dead in a clash between police and religious zealots in Gombe.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the Nigerian police headquarters in Lagos said the fighting had ended, and three police and eight civilians were dead. Six police were reported injured and 11 people arrested.
The fighting reportedly began when Maitatsine leader Yusufu Adamu resisted an attempt by police to arrest him in the Pantami district, police said. Police did not say whether Adamu was killed, arrested or escaped.
Reinforcements went to Gombe in Bauchi state about 150 miles from the border with Cameroon when Adamu’s followers clashed with police. Fighting spread to other parts of the city before it was brought under control.
During the clashes, police and troops barred entry to Gombe and trucks carrying fleeing families and their belongings were seen leaving, the news agency said. Residents of the Pantami district started leaving last week when the presence of sect members was noticed, the agency said.
The sect was outlawed in 1980 after 10 days of religious rioting in Kano, 200 miles northeast of Gombe, which is the center of the Islamic faith in Nigeria.
Alhaji Marwa Maitatsine, a self-proclaimed prophet of Islam who rejected the teachings of the religion’s founding prophet, Mohammed, and after whom the sect is named, was among 4,200 people killed in the 1980 violence in Kano.
Maitatsine came from Cameroon and preached a fundamentalist form of Islam which rejects the trappings of the modern world. He won a following mainly among residents from other West African countries.
In previous riots, members of the sect were seen sprinkling themselves with what they called ″magic dust″ which they believed would make them invulnerable to gunfire.
In October 1982, another clash between police and Maitatsine followers left more than 500 dead in Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria. In March last year, clashes between police and sect members in the northeastern city of Jimeta claimed 534 lives according to police, although Nigerian newspapers put the toll at more than 700.