ABUJA, Nigeria –
Nigerian authorities have ordered a curfew in a northwestern state where hundreds of people demonstrated on Saturday demanding the release of suspects in the brutal murder of a Christian student accused of blasphemy against Islam.
Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal imposed a 24-hour curfew “with immediate effect” as the protest grew in the state capital amid religious tensions.
The victim, identified as Deborah Samuel, was stoned, beaten and burned to death Friday at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State after being accused of “posting a blasphemous message on social media…the Prophet Muhammad,” police said.
The authorities closed the school and asked the other students to leave the premises. Nevertheless, on Saturday, the students rallied to demand that the police release their two fellow students held as suspects in connection with the murder.
The murder of Samuel, a Christian, highlights the deep religious divide in Africa’s most populous country, where violence has erupted in the past in response to actions or comments deemed anti-Islamic.
In remote Kaduna state, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Sokoto, the state government has also banned protests ‘related to religious activity’, citing ‘initiatives by some unpatriotic elements’ to organize a demonstration over the Sokoto incident.
Christian and Muslim leaders have condemned the student’s murder and called for the perpetrators to be prosecuted.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari “declared news of the murder of the young woman by classmates a matter of concern and demanded an impartial and thorough investigation into everything that transpired before and during the incident” , according to a statement from a spokesperson.
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