Mob Attacks More Than a Dozen Gay Men in Nigeria’s Capital

<em>The New York Times<br />
&ndash;Adam Nossiter</em>

DAKAR, Senegal — A mob attacked gay people in a neighborhood in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, dragging young men from their homes, beating them with nail-studded clubs and whips, and shouting that they were “cleansing the community” of gays, several Nigerian activists and a witness said Saturday.

The attack took place late Wednesday night in the Gishiri neighborhood, and one victim was beaten nearly to death, the witness said. Afterward, the mob of about 50 young men dragged four of the victims to a nearby police station, where the police further beat and insulted them, said the witness, who gave his name as John. His last name is being withheld for his safety.

The attack came in the wake of a new law signed by President Goodluck Jonathan prescribing prison sentences of up to 14 years for gay people. There have been recent episodes of similar mob violence in the Muslim-dominated north of Nigeria.

In Abuja, the witness and the activists said, some in the mob were shouting, “We are working for Jonathan!”

About 14 young men were assaulted, the activists said, and no members of the mob were arrested.

“They all had weapons,” John said. “Some were having wires, whips. Some had broken furniture. They said they wanted to kill. They were moving around from one person’s house to another.”

John said he was cowering in his apartment, extinguishing his candle and hiding as the mob tried to break down his door.

“I heard them beating one guy up,” he said. “The guy was pleading with them and begging them. They beat until he could not fight back.”

The violence continued at the police station. “The police were calling them names, saying, ‘You guys are the ones spreading H.I.V.,’ ” John said. “They were slapping them and beating them.”

When the attack was over, the attackers wrote on the walls of the houses that were stormed, “Homosexuals, pack and leave,” according to an activist, Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike, who went to help rescue some of the victims.

Activists said the mob violence was a sign that the new law appeared to have given mobs license to act on widespread antigay sentiment in Nigeria.

“The government has given a go-ahead authority to mob jungle justice,” said Mr. Orazulike of the International Center for Advocacy on the Right to Health. “This is unacceptable. You can’t attack people violently because of whom they choose to love.”

Another activist, Dorothy Aken’Ova, accused the government of tacit complicity. “The leaders are just watching, and now the Nigerian social fabric is being disintegrated by acts of mob violence,” she said. “Now we have this new category as a result of the new law. And the government is quiet.”

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