SECURITY Forces, Shiites Protesters Clash In Abuja
FRESH clashes between supporters of an imprisoned Shiite cleric and security forces broke out in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Monday after a weekend of violence.The army and police confronted members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), the group’s spokesman Ibrahim Musa told AFP, amid reports of casualties.
“The security agents attacked members of the IMN when they were in the procession coming into Abuja,” he added.
“People were killed definitely,” said Musa who was not at the procession and could not give a death toll.
“We don’t carry arms on our procession, we don’t block roads… the security agents have decided to shed our blood.”
Rights group Amnesty International said reports that troops were firing live bullets at protesters were “very disturbing”, adding: “Firing live bullets at unarmed protesters is unlawful.”
Rights groups have accused Nigeria’s military of killing more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves during the 2015 confrontation, a charge the military strongly denies.
Pro-Iranian cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in government custody since fighting between his supporters and the army broke out in December 2015.
Zakzaky has been at loggerheads with Nigeria’s secular authorities for years because of his call for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution. Northern Nigeria is majority Sunni Muslim.
His supporters have held a series of protests in Abuja over the past year to demand his release and have had a series of standoffs with police.
On Saturday, the military shot dead three IMN members.
According to the army, soldiers transporting weapons and ammunitions were “attacked” by IMN members — an account the pro-Iranian sect “categorically refutes”.
The IMN members had established an “illegal roadblock denying motorists free passage” and when the military tried to clear the barrier they were met with “stiff opposition”, army spokesman James Myam said in a Sunday statement.
Soldiers opened fire on the IMN members after they “pelted the troops with stones” and attempted to “cart away the ammunition and missiles the troops were escorting”, the statement said.
But the IMN disputed the claim, calling the military account “false” and “unsubstantiated”. Musa said the army had attacked a peaceful mourning procession.