Dozens more bodies were recovered after violent clashes between security forces and Islamists in northern Nigeria, bringing the death toll to around 70, a count at a hospital morgue showed yesterday.
An AFP reporter listed 42 bodies on the floor of the morgue in the city of Bauchi, all with bullet or machete wounds. Another 25 bodies, mostly young people including minors, had been placed in cold storage rooms.
A morgue employee said â€œthe bodies were brought in on Mondayâ€ after clashes erupted in Bauchi between suspected members of a radical Islamist sect and security forces.
Police late Monday said 38 people died in the fighting, including three members of the security forces.
Police forces across the country have been placed on high alert in the aftermath of the clashes as part of a bid to forestall further violence.
The Kala-Kato sect, also known as Maitatsine, has been present in several Muslim-dominated states in northern Nigeria for decades.
It led religious uprisings in 1980 and 1992 which claimed thousands of lives in the northern cities of Kano and Yola.
The number of its followers is not known but estimated to run into several thousands.
Sect leader Badamasi Saleh Alkaleri was among those killed by security forces, the police said.
Soldiers and police deployed across Bauchi had withdrawn by early Wednesday as life began returning to normal.
â€œPeace has been restored to the Zango area which was rocked by violence on Monday. However our men are on high alert in the event of any breakdown of law and order,â€ Bauchi state police commissioner, Atiku Kafur, told AFP.
The Red Cross was organising burials for the victims.
â€œSo far we have 40 dead bodies and we have secured a warrant from the justice commissioner for the burial,â€ Adamu Abubakar, the head of the Red Cross office in Bauchi told AFP.
â€œWith the heat, these bodies need to be buried quickly as they will decompose rapidly,â€ said the worker at the morgue, where the room was being cooled by a single fan.
Houses, cars and motorcycles were burnt during the clashes.
The Kala-Kato sect rejects modernity, including Western-style education and medicine. It bans television and radio in its membersâ€™ homes and rejects any literature except the Koran.
A sect with similar inclinations, known as Boko Haram, led an insurrection in July. At least 800 people were killed when security forces crushed the uprising in nearby Borno State.