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127 Suspected Coup Plotters Freed

May 13, 1990

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Military authorities have released 127 military personnel detained in connection with an attempt to oust Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, newspapers reported Saturday.

They quoted an army bulletin as saying another 200 soldiers still are being interrogated about the attempted coup April 22, which was led by middle- ranking officers angered by Moslem domination of politics in Africa’s most populous country.

Military authorities also released newspaper editor Chris Okojie on Friday, but four other journalists still are being held for reports on the failed coup that offended President Babangida and his military government.

Okojie was detained April 30 after his Vanguard newspaper published a cartoon showing several men glumly listening to radio reports that the coup had failed.

Two newspapers shut down after the attempted takeover, Punch and the Lagos News, remain closed and guarded by armed soldiers.

Suspected coup plotters are being interrogated by a panel headed by an unidentified army brigadier. It will recommend who should stand trial for treason before a military tribunal.

Several civilians are among those held, but it was not known how many. The government has accused a millionaire businessman and other civilian accomplices of financing the coup in a bid to grab power.

In the northern city of Kaduna, authorities appealed for calm at a meeting with Christian and Moslem leaders after two days of demonstrations by Christian clergymen and their followers.

The Christians are protesting the detentions of two lay leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria, who were arrested after they published pamphlets accusing Babangida and his aides of stealing millions of dollars from state coffers.

The pamphlets also accused the government of plotting to make Islam the official religion of Nigeria, a nation of 100 million people with a slight majority of Moslems.

Government sources have said the pamphlets were inflammatory and aimed at inciting hatred of Moslems at a time when officials were trying to ensure that there was no religious strife in the wake of the coup attempt.

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