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Christian youths burning corpses of Muslims

Nigeria - Christian youths have been burning the corpses of Muslims in the streets after religious riots that have killed at least 138 people across the country
Christian mobs, seeking revenge for the killings of Christians in the north of the country, cut down Muslims with cutlasses, destroyed their homes and torched mosques in two days of violence in Onitsha, where at least 85 people have died.

"We are happy this thing is happening so that the north will learn their lesson," motorcycle taxi rider Anthony Umai said on Thursday, standing close to where Christian youths were burning the piled-up corpses of 10 Muslims.

We are happy this thing is happening so that the north will learn their lesson`

Dozens more had been thrown into the back of trucks.

Uncertainty over the political future is aggravating regional, ethnic and religious rivalries in Africa`s most populous nation.

Militants in the oil-producing south have waged a three-month campaign of attacks and kidnappings against the oil industry, which has cut exports and driven up global oil prices.

There was no fighting in Onitsha yesterday but Emeka Umeh, of the human rights group the Civil Liberties Organisation, called it "the peace of the graveyard".

Some corpses were still lying on the streets and hundreds of Muslim men, women and children fled the city crammed into open-top trucks.

Thousands more were hiding in army barracks and police stations.

Umeh said most of the 85 bodies his group counted were Hausas, but some Ibos were killed too.

The Hausas are the main ethnic group in northern Nigeria and most are Muslim, while the Ibos are dominant in the south-east and almost all are Christian.

In northern Maiduguri, where the Christian Association of Nigeria says 50 Christians were killed in a weekend riot that began as a protest against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, tensions were high during several Christian funeral masses.

The Red Cross said at least 21 people died in Maiduguri.

A crowd of Christian youths broke away from the burial of one of the victims, a Catholic priest, and ran shouting through the streets before police dispersed them.

Mourners wailed as police stood by at the funeral of 13 children from two families who were burnt in their houses.

News of the Maiduguri murders set off the bloodletting in Onitsha, and tit-for-tat violence spread on Wednesday to Enugu, another south-eastern city, where seven people were killed.

Nigeria`s 140-million people are divided about equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, but sizable religious minorities live in both regions.

Killings in one part of the country often spark reprisals elsewhere.

The triggers for riots that killed at least 46 people, mostly Christians, in northern Maiduguri, Bauchi and Katsina, varied, but leaders have linked them to political tensions.

Elections are due next year and many Nigerians believe President Olusegun Obasanjo will try to stay on after eight years in power.

The prospect angers those who feel the time has come for their ethnic or regional group to get the top job. - Reuters