Fresh protests by Nigerian Shias after deadly clashes

11.07.2019

Hundreds of Shias demonstrated in the Nigerian capital on Wednesday to demand the release of their jailed leader, a day after clashes with police left several protesters dead.

Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), a radical pro-Iranian group, chanted slogans and danced with yellow bandanas on their heads in front of the national human rights commission in Abuja.

On the wall, a message written in red paint read, "Nigerian police shooted shi'ites members @ national assembly on 9/7/2019."

IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in custody since December 2015, when hundreds of his supporters, including women and children, were killed by the security forces, according to a toll established by rights watchdogs.

His detention has led to repeated protests in Abuja and several northern cities.

Police opened fire in clashes outside the parliament building on Tuesday, leaving at least three demonstrators dead, including a 14-year-old boy, while 11 others were injured, according to the protestors.

Police said the use of weapons had been defensive. They said two officers had been shot in the legs after a rifle had been snatched from a police officer manning the main entrance to the parliament.

This version was contested by the IMN.

"They (the police) just opened fire," said the organisation's spokesman, Ibrahim Musa. "Of course, in some situations some of our members may have been throwing stones and such, but the police statement that we were trying to steal their weapon is simply not true."

With few exceptions, the Nigerian press headlined with the picture of a wounded policeman and typically described the protest as an attack on the National Assembly.

Musa said there was deep concern in the Shia community over Zakzaky's health. At the weekend, his son appealed for help, saying his father's detention was an "assassination".

"We are really agitated because we don't want a situation whereby our leader will die in the hands of the federal government," Musa said.

Zakzaky has been at odds with Nigeria's secular authorities for years because of his call for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution.

Northern Nigeria is majority Sunni Muslim.

In October, the IMN and human rights groups said more than 40 people were killed when the security forces opened fire on crowds on the outskirts of the capital. According to an official toll, six died.    (AFP)

 

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