LAGOS, Nigeria — Traders from rival ethnic groups clashed at a market in a suburb of Nigeria's main commercial city Thursday, leaving at least 27 people dead and dozens of market stalls destroyed by fire, police said.
The Yoruba and Hausa traders have been vying for control of the sprawling food market in Kedu, about 10 miles north of Lagos.
The conflict turned bloody Thursday when the Yoruba traders, backed by members of the militant Odua People's Congress, clashed with their Hausa counterparts using guns and machetes.
Dozens of stalls were set afire, and at least three people were burned to death when tires were forced around their waists and ignited. The fighting raged for two hours before police restored order.
The West African country's more than 250 ethnic groups have a turbulent history of tension that often erupts into violence. There has been renewed conflict between Nigeria's two largest ethnic groups--the Yorubas, mostly Christians who dominate southwestern Nigeria, and the Hausas, who are northern Muslims.
In Kedu, riot police cordoned off the market, where corpses littered the entrance and smoke billowed from the charred stalls.
Police reported that 27 bodies had been found, President Olusegun Obasanjo said in a television interview in Abuja, the capital. Many more people were injured.
"We cannot allow this country to be taken over by hoodlums," Obasanjo said.
He said he had ordered police to arrest anyone associated with the Odua People's Congress, a collection of Yoruba leaders and activists who have said they want a separate Yoruba state in southwestern Nigeria. Anyone resisting arrest would be shot, Obasanjo said.
Police in Lagos were placed on alert in case the violence should spread.
"The issue, as I see it, is an unacceptable issue of criminality, lawlessness, murder and arson, which no government can tolerate," Obasanjo said.