Police have broken up an Islamic community in western Nigeria and deported dozens of its members to avert any repeat of violence in which about 800 people were killed last month, state officials said yesterday.
The police moved on the Darul Islam community on the edge of Mokwa town earlier this month, detaining hundreds of members after reports the group was forcibly holding women to be wives, Reuters reports.
Niger State officials said they feared the community could have evolved into a violent group like the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, which clashed with security forces last month hundreds of kilometres (miles) away in northeastern Maiduguri.
While the two groups are not known to be directly linked, the authorities suspect they share similar beliefs.
“We had reports that the Boko Haram started like this before they grew to the point that they became security threats. We don’t want this to happen in Niger state,” said state government spokesman Alhaji Abdulkhadir Bala.
Darul Islam had an estimated 1300 members, some of whom crossed into Nigeria to join, Niger police spokesman Richard Oguche said.
Nigerian immigration officials deported around 100 members over the weekend to Niger and Ghana after they were found to be non-citizens. Those found to be Nigerians were sent back to their home states.
Police said no criminal charges were brought against any members.
Africa’s most populous nation is roughly equally divided between Christians and Muslims and more than 200 ethnic groups generally live peacefully side by side. But there have been frequent bouts of religious violence.
Clashes between security forces and members of Boko Haram which means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language spoken across northern Nigeria killed close to 800 people last month.
The uprising was put down when the military captured the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was later shot dead in police detention.
West African Islam is overwhelmingly moderate but sects such as Boko Haram are able to build a following because poverty, unemployment and a failed education system have left millions of youths angry and frustrated.
Pic: Riots in Nigeria