7th May, 2012
Crowds of protesters took to the streets of the Nigerian city of Potiskum Monday over a deadly market attack last week, with a church and classrooms burnt and police firing tear gas.
More than a thousand protesters, including traders and clerics, took part in the demonstration in the northeastern city hit by a bomb-and-gun attack Wednesday night at a busy cattle market that killed at least 34 people.
Bonfires were set amid the protests and a crowd of youths also vandalised military checkpoints while heckling soldiers manning them in anger over troops’ failure to foil the attack, an AFP correspondent reported.
At least one church and a number of classrooms were burnt by what police described as “miscreants” who took advantage of the protest.
Police fired tear gas and shot into the air as demonstrators sought to march to the palace of the town’s traditional ruler and moved closer to regional police headquarters, witnesses said. No one was reported wounded.
“Some miscreants took advantage of the peaceful demonstration to go on a rampage,” said Moses Onireti, police commissioner for Yobe state, where Potiskum is located.
“They burnt a church and three blocks of classrooms in a primary school nearby. We have arrested three suspects in the attacks. The police have succeeded in restoring normalcy.”
Protesters expressed frustration with authorities’ inability to stop violence in the city.
“The government must as a matter of urgency fish out the perpetrators of this crime and ensure that they are appropriately punished. This is our demand,” a protester told AFP.
Demonstrators also held prayers at the scene of the killings.
“We call on God to expose the criminals that attacked this market and killed people in cold blood and destroyed means of livelihood,” said Muslim cleric Goni Yahuza, who led the prayers.
Frustration has been growing over violence in Nigeria, hit by scores of deadly attacks blamed on Islamist group Boko Haram.
Potiskum has been among the areas hard hit by attacks attributed to the group, and it was included in a state of emergency declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan on December 31.
The attack Wednesday night said to be the work of armed robbers was in reprisal for an incident earlier in the day, when a gang sought to rob the market but were fought off by traders who caught one of the attackers.
The man who was caught was doused in petrol and a tyre was placed around his neck before he was burnt to death, according to police and residents.
Gunmen armed with explosives returned later in the day, burning the market to the ground and killing at least 34 people, whose bodies were taken to a local hospital.
Authorities have said the death toll is likely more than 50 because the families of some victims buried them without taking their bodies to the hospital, but firm numbers have not been established.