KANO, Nigeria – Angry young Muslim men attacked "nonbelievers" with machetes Tuesday, while others burned cars, stores and apartments in apparent revenge for last week's killings of hundreds of Muslims by a Christian group.
Three corpses — one charred and another badly mutilated — lay in the streets; it was unclear who killed them. There were unconfirmed reports of several others killed by young men who barricaded streets with burning tires and garbage.
The violence came hours after thousands of Muslim protesters — some carrying daggers, sickles and clubs — marched from the main mosque in the northern city of Kano (search), traditionally a hotbed of religious tensions.
Amina Usman, a 19-year-old university student, recounted seeing two mutilated bodies next to a makeshift checkpoint where young Muslim Hausa (search)-speaking men armed with sticks, knives and clubs were searching cars for Christians and animists and asking passengers to recite Muslim prayers.
"It was hell," said Mohammed Aliyu, another university student, who said he saw five bodies in another part of Kano, Nigeria's largest Muslim city, one with a burning tire around its neck.
Businesses bolted their doors and children were sent home early from school.
Demonstrators were protesting attacks on Hausa-speaking Muslims by fighters from the Tarok (search)-speaking tribe in the central Nigerian town of Yelwa.
A Red Cross official has said between 500 and 600 people died in the Yelwa attacks, while the Nigerian government's emergency response agency estimates less than half that number.
In the capital, Abuja, President Olusegun Obasanjo (search) met with a delegation of Muslim leaders calling for the capture of the Yelwa attackers.
Obasanjo asked the clerics to "tell your followers to be patient and give me time to resolve the matter."
"It's time now to put a permanent stop to this whole thing," Obasanjo said as reporters looked on. "The situation in Yelwa is condemnable and I condemn it in very strong terms."
In Kano, soldiers and police in armored vehicles were deployed in an attempt to quell what began as an angry demonstration but quickly turned into a riot.
An Associated Press reporter saw youths at a makeshift checkpoint of burning tires strike three young women with machetes after accusing them of being "nonbelievers" for wearing Western-style skirts and blouses.
The women escaped with bleeding head wounds after several motorcycle taxi drivers intervened.
"Everywhere, people have taken the laws into their own hands. We are trying to control the situation," said police commissioner Abdul Damini Daudu.
Sule Ya'u Sule, a state government spokesman, announced a dusk to dawn curfew and blamed the day's rioting on "disgruntled elements" he did not identify. He stressed the earlier march had been peaceful.
Muslim leaders in Kano earlier linked the Yelwa attacks to the U.S.-led war against terror.
"This violence is a calculated global Western war against Muslims, just like in Afghanistan and Iraq," Umar Ibrahim Kabo, the most senior Muslim cleric in Kano, told protesters, some of whom burned U.S. and Israeli flags. "Muslims are in grief."
Kabo issued a seven-day ultimatum to Obasanjo to apprehend the Yelwa killers "or be blamed for whatever happens" afterward.
Kano Governor Ibrahim Shekarau told protests that "killings of Muslims throughout the world ... will only embolden us."
Muslims should be "ready to lay down our lives," Shekarau said, while urging protesters not to attack "innocent people."
The Yelwa attacks follow a deadly succession of communal violence. In February, Muslim militants were blamed for the slaughter of almost 50 people there — many of them Christians who took refuge in a church.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (search) accused Nigeria's government Tuesday of failing to take steps to stop the "endless cycle of revenge."
Some 10,000 have died in religious, ethnic and community-related violence in Africa's most populous nation since Obasanjo was first elected in 1999, ending 15 years of military rule.