14th September, 2012
Nigerian soldiers fired live rounds in the air outside a mosque in the flashpoint city of Jos on Friday to disperse a crowd planning protests over a US-made anti-Islam film, a spokesman said.
The soldiers “had to fire some warning shots in the air, but there were no casualties,” Captain Salihu Mustapha, military spokesman in Plateau state, told AFP, putting the crowd of mostly young people at several hundred.
“The placards they were carrying were denouncing America,” he added.
After Friday prayers at Jos’s Yantaya mosque, which adheres to the hardline Wahhabi branch of Islam, a group began demonstrating against the film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed and has sparked deadly protests in several countries.
“We are not going to allow any protests in Jos,” a city where violence between Muslim and Christian groups has killed thousands of people in recent years, the spokesman said.
Isyaku Mohammed, a resident of the religiously divided city, said the crowd numbered in the several thousands before it was dispersed.
Mohammed says he prays at Jos’ Central Mosque, where clerics who follow the more moderate Sufi doctrine denounced the film but discouraged protests.
The demonstrations “were uncalled for,” Plateau state government spokesman Pam Ayuba said, especially given the state’s recent history of bloodshed.
“What has the production of that film got to do with Jos? There is no relationship,” he said.
Some Muslim community leaders in Plateau state, of which Jos is the capital, have accused the Christian-led government of trying to marginalise members of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic group.
Tensions boiled over in July when two prominent Christian politicians were killed in a weekend of violence that left more than 100 dead. A heavy weapon was later fired at an Islamic school within the city, killing a young boy.
The United States earlier warned of potential unrest in Jos, which falls on the dividing line between Nigeria’s majority Muslim north and largely Christian south, in Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer.
The US also closed its embassy and consulate in Nigeria early Friday as a precautionary move, following protests outside its diplomatic missions in several Arab nations.
Protests against the film, reportedly produced by a Coptic Christian in California, have spread across the Middle East and Asia.