- Chadian troops killed 72 followers of a Muslim spiritual leader who had threatened to launch a "Holy war" in defence of the Islamic faith, Interior Minister Ahmat Magamat Bachir confirmed today. Chad has no history of religious clashes since pre-colonial times.
The clashes between supporters of a radical Islamic preacher and police erupted Sunday night at Kouno, 300 kilometres south-east of N'Djamena, when officials tried to stop the sermons of the preacher on Holy war and the end of the world.
Minister Bachir said the death toll was regrettable though the government was not aware that the spiritual leader had declared he was ready to fight to restore what he saw as the true Muslim faith in Chad.
Mr Bachir added that four members of the Chadian security forces were killed and six wounded in the fighting on Sunday and Monday at Kouno.
A Muslim leader who claimed to be an emissary from God became defiant and sent his followers armed with clubs, poisoned arrows and swords against the police in protecting his faith. The Muslim holy man had declared earlier that he wanted to fight against corruption of the Islamic faith and restore justice in Chad.
Totally landlocked oil-producer Chad has over half of its population following Islam Islam. Most of the remaining, living in the southern-most parts of the country, believe in different African religions.
The ethnically mixed country has suffered waves of violence over the last few years, including inter-ethnic clashes, raids over the eastern border from Sudan by Janjaweed militia, and successive attacks by anti-government rebels. But religious clashes do not have much history in post-colonial Chad, where Islam and Christianity are competing to reduce the numbers of African religion believers.
Nonetheless, the territory now defined as Chad had much tradition in religious conflicts in pre-colonial times, when different waves of Islamic revival movements poured into the Muslim and non-Muslim kingdoms of the region. These included both radical Mahdist movements from what is now Sudan, and the Islamic revival headed by the Fulani people (Foulbe) coming from modern Nigeria and Cameroon. Also these revival movements claimed to fight "corrupt" and "decadent" old regimes.
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