- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2002

ABUJA, Nigeria Miss World contestants packed their swimsuits and evening gowns yesterday to leave Nigeria, but religious clashes ignited by the pageant continued for a fourth straight day.
Red Cross workers have recovered "well over 100" bodies in Kaduna, a northern city of several million people with a history of Muslim-Christian violence.
Nigerian Red Cross President Emmanuel Ijewere declined to give a precise death toll for fear of "inflaming the situation further."
More than 400 people were hospitalized in Kaduna, about 100 miles north of the capital, Abuja, with injuries suffered in the fighting, he said. At least 4,000 people were homeless.
It was not clear how many more people may have died during the riots that spread Friday to Abuja, where the contest was to have been held.
Though the capital appeared calm yesterday, pageant officials announced they were moving it to London, where it will be held on December 7, the same day it had been planned for Nigeria.
Throughout the violence, the more than 80 Miss World contestants remained under Nigerian police and army guard in the Nicon Hilton in Abuja.
By late yesterday, the women had packed their bags and were checking out, hoping to catch a late-night flight to London.
Miss Puerto Rico Casandra Polo Berrios told the Associated Press she was "sad to be leaving." She said she was unaware of the fighting until her mother called on Friday to make sure she was safe.
T'Shura Akeesha Ambrose, Miss Bahamas, expressed relief. "Personally, I am very happy to be moving to London," said Miss Ambrose, who attends law school there.
If the move was designed to avoid more violence, it backfired in Kaduna. Despite a round-the-clock curfew, Christians went on the rampage in southern neighborhoods, seeing the cancellation as a "Muslim victory," the Red Cross president said.
In the Trikania neighborhood, Muslim and Christian mobs pursued each other with sticks and knives. As police tried to disperse the rioters with tear gas, gunshots also were heard.
At one point in the day, dozens of buildings were burning in blazes apparently set by the mobs. A man's body lay in a gutter. Women fled the area carrying baggage on their heads.
In many other parts of Kaduna, however, it was calm. Some residents who had taken refuge in police stations and army bases began returning to their shattered homes, searching smoking ruins for belongings.
Security forces continued to patrol other major Nigerian cities, including the northern trading hub of Kano, where Muslim women peacefully protested on Friday.
Islamic groups have complained for months that the beauty pageant promotes promiscuity. But organizers insisted the women had never intended to offend anyone.
Tensions boiled over after a national newspaper suggested that Islam's founder, Mohammed, would have approved of the event.
Muslims were offended, and riots erupted with Muslim mobs storming through the city, burning cars and assaulting bystanders they believed to be Christians.


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