Yar'Adua off to Brazil

2009-07-29 10:30

Brasilia - Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua is expected in Brazil on Wednesday for a lightning-fast visit to be held while his army wages a brutal offensive against suspected members of a radical Islamic sect.

Yar'Adua, who left Nigeria on Tuesday, accompanied by his wife and his ministers of defence, foreign business, science and technology, sport, and energy, is to meet Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for a working lunch.

Bilateral energy, biotechnology and sports agreements are to be signed, Brazilian officials said.

They added that Yar'Adua would not be speaking to reporters during the visit.

Brazil and Nigeria have trade worth $8.2bn according to official data for 2008. Nigeria is Brazil's biggest supplier of oil.

Lula has visited Nigeria twice, in 2005 and in 2006. Yar'Adua's predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, visited Brazil in 2005.

Under control

The current Nigerian leader left on the Brazil trip while his troops shelled a mosque and the home of the leader of an Islamic fundamentalist sect on the third day of fierce clashes that witnesses say have killed more than 250 people.

The sect, headed by Mohammed Yusuf, has styled itself as Nigeria's "Taliban" and said it wants to lead an armed insurrection to rid society of "immorality". The group has targeted police in four northern states since early Sunday.

Yar'Adua told reporters on Tuesday just before boarding his flight to Brazil that the situation in northern Nigeria was "under control".

The unrest is the deadliest sectarian violence in Nigeria since November last year when up to 700 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians.

Since the return of a civilian regime to Nigeria's central government in 1999, 12 northern states have adopted Islamic Sharia law. The latest attacks, which independent security analysts say were coordinated, affected a third of these states.