27 killed in Nigeria, Libya cartoon riots
* Nigerian churches burnt
* Libyan minister fired, Italian minister quits
TRIPOLI/ABUJA: About 27 people were killed when Muslims protests in Nigeria and Libya against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) descended into violence.
In Nigeria, Maiduguri Deputy Police Commissioner Haz Iwendi said rioters killed at least 16 people during riots. He told AFP that army troops and police reinforcements had been deployed to the city and that a curfew had been imposed to bring about a return to order. "We've arrested 115 people. Some 16 persons were killed by rioters, and 11 churches burnt," he said.
Mohammed Auwal, a civil servant, told AFP by telephone, "When the protesters gathered for the protest at Ramat Square they were ordered by a police detachment to disperse but the crowd insisted on holding the protest." The policemen then fired canisters of teargas to disperse the crowd, he said. "When news went into town about what happened at the square, a mob attacked motor spare-parts shops of Christian Igbo traders at Monday market in the city, looting and burning them," he added.
A local reporter, Abdullahi Bego, told AFP from the scene that at least 20 shops had been looted and vandalised and churches had been burned to the ground.
Earlier in Libya, Italian officials said that around 11 people were killed in clashes with police when they tried to storm an Italian consulate here on Friday in protests against the Danish cartoons.
"At least 11 demonstrators have been killed according to the police who sent me that toll," said the first secretary of Italy's embassy in Tripoli, Dominico Bellatoni, after Friday's unrest.
The protesters set fire to the Danish flag and cars as they attempted to storm the Italian consulate in Benghazi, the only Western diplomatic mission in the city. Libyan state TV showed footage of stone-throwing protesters and security forces with guns in streets round a scorched building. The footage contained what sounded like gunshots.
Private sources contacted from Tripoli said the toll was higher, between 15 and 25, while many injured had been taken to the Al Jala hospital.
The General People's Congress fired Interior Minister Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdallah and police chiefs in Benghazi saying "disproportionate force" had been used to disperse protesters.
In Rome, Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli stepped down after he was widely blamed for the bloody clashes in Libya over the cartoons, which he had made into T-shirts and wore on television. agencies