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Anger grows as petrol subsidies cut

Flames rose from the burning roadblock that cut off a highway linking Nigeria's mainland to the islands where the oil-rich nation's wealthy live as the bare-chested young men who live under the bridge said they had had enough.

"This is oligarchy, this is not a democracy." shouted Danjuma Mohammed, as he stood before the fire holding rocks in his hands. "We are no longer afraid of you. We are ready for war."

As the paralysing nationwide strike called by labour unions Nigeria entered its second day on Tuesday, protests by those angered by government corruption and inaction drew tens of thousands to the streets and remain largely peaceful.

However, worrying signs of possible unrest have begun emerging in a multi-ethnic nation of more than 160 million people often violently divided by those who have and those who have not.

In Benin City in Nigeria's south west, an angry mob killed five people and wounded at least six others on Tuesday afternoon as they attacked the city's central mosque and a Quranic school, Nigerian Red Cross spokesman Nwakpa O. Nwakpa said. On Monday, a mob tried and failed to set a mosque ablaze.

Authorities have tried to control violence in Nigeria, a nation divided into a mostly Christian south and Muslim north. However, a radical Islamist sect called Boko Haram has begun specifically killing Christians in the nation's north east, leading to a call by a prominent Christian leader for worshippers to begin defending themselves.

The Benin City attack appeared to be a response to those killings. "It looks like a reprisal from attacks in the north," Nwakpa said. "They took advantage of protests."

The national strike, which began Monday in Africa's most populous nation, came after President Goodluck Jonathan's administration removed subsidies on January 1 that keep petrol prices low. Overnight, prices at the pump rose from 1.70 US dollars per gallon (45 cents per litre) to at least 3.50 US dollars per gallon (94 cents per litre). The costs of food and transportation also doubled in a nation where most live on less than two US dollars a day.

Separately, police said an Islamist sect killed eight people, including four police officers, at a beer parlour in northeast Nigeria. Local police commissioner Tanko Lawan said the attack happened late on Tuesday night in Yobe state. Lawan said the gunmen opened fire on the parlour, killing people including a seven-year-old child.

Lawan said no arrests have been made but blamed the shooting on a radical sect known as Boko Haram, which has been blamed in at least 54 deaths in recent days, according to an Associated Press count.

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