Nigerian troops fired into the air on Friday to disperse Muslims protesting in the city of Jos against an American film about the Prophet Mohammad that has triggered unrest in several countries across the Islamic world.
Nigeria’s police have ordered 24-hour security around all foreign embassies, and the U.S. embassy in Abuja issued an emergency warning to its citizens in Nigeria, where radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds this year in an insurgency against the Nigerian government.
Scores of Muslim demonstrators distributed photographs printed out from the trailer of the film, which Muslims say insults the Prophet Mohammad, after Friday prayers in the central city of Jos. They then marched down the main Bauchi Road shouting “God is Greatest!” a Reuters witness said.
The military deployed to block them, firing live rounds into the air and ordering them to disperse.
In the far northern city of Sokoto, on the threshold of the Sahara desert, thousands of people marched peacefully carrying placards reading “Down with America” and “We love our Prophet”, under a light security presence.
While both protests were peaceful, security forces have low tolerance for public demonstrations in Jos, a violence-prone city in Nigeria’s “Middlebelt”, where the country’s mostly Christian south and largely Muslim north meet.
Protests frequently erupt into ethnic and sectarian killing in Jos and surrounding Plateau state.
“We succeeded in dispelling what would have been a full blown protest,” Captain Salisu Mustapha, spokesman for the military and police Joint Taskforce for Plateau said by telephone.
In Kaduna, further north, police commissioner Olufemi Adenaike banned protests about the film, he said in a statement “to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the peaceful protest due to the already volatile security condition of the state.”
In Kano, the north’s biggest city, there were no demonstrations but the military beefed up security, deploying troops across the metropolis.
Western embassies have been attacked in Libya, where the U.S. ambassador was killed on Tuesday, Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia.