Nigeria

Election-related violence kills four in Nigeria

BAUCHI, Nigeria, March 29 (Reuters) - Four people were killed in clashes between supporters of rival political parties in the northeastern Nigerian state of Bauchi, police said on Thursday as tensions rise ahead of elections next month.

Nigerians are due to elect their president, state governors and state and national legislators in polls that should mark the first fully democratic transition in Africa's most populous country since independence from Britain in 1960.

But campaigning has been marred by sporadic fighting in many states. Typically, politicians pay and arm unemployed youths to intimidate opponents or voters. Clashes have taken place on the fringes of electoral rallies.

Nigerian media have reported over 70 deaths in election-related violence over the past five months, although officials have not confirmed these figures.

Three people died in the town of Misau in Bauchi state on Wednesday and about 10 houses were torched during fighting between the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and rivals from the opposition All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP).

The violence started when groups of youths sponsored by the PDP started removing the campaign posters of an ANPP candidate. In neighbouring Dambam, one person died during another clash between youths from the PDP and the ANPP.

The state capital Bauchi was also hit by political violence on Feb. 1, when protesters threw stones during a speech by President Olusegun Obasanjo during a campaign rally for the PDP's presidential candidate.

Separate fighting that day killed at least two people in Bauchi, according to media reports.

Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 after three decades of almost continuous army dictatorship. Fighting and vote rigging marked the last elections in 2003 and civil society activists say April's polls could be similarly tainted.

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