10 January 2018

Nigeria: How Police Forcefully Dispersed Protesting Shiites - Several Injured, Arrested

Photo: The Guardian Nigeria
Shiites

Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, protesting the continued incarceration of their leader, were on Wednesday attacked by security operatives.

The operatives fired tear-gas and also shot in the air to disperse the protesters marching in Abuja. Many of them were eventually arrested.

Hundreds of IMN members at about 11.a.m took to the streets of Abuja chanting as they demanded the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky who has been in detention without trial since December 2015.

This is not the first time the group will be protesting in Abuja and other northern states against the incarceration of Mr. El-Zakzaky.

On Wednesday, the group started its procession from Garki, Area 10 and later headed to Area 1, also in Garki District of the Nigerian capital. They were ordered to stop the march by armed security operatives at the Moshood Abiola Road along Area 2 junction.

The Shiites insisted on continuing with their peaceful march, chanting 'Free Zakzaky! Free Zakzaky!'

The police eventually fired tear gas and shot into the air as they tried to disperse the group. This led to confusion among traders, motorists and residents of the area.

Some of the fleeing IMN members during the clash escaped with injuries.

A reinforcement from the Mobile Police Force Unit later stormed the scene and arrested some of the protesters who were whisked away in police vans.

The operatives, undeterred, were seen combing the area to arrest other fleeing protesters.

Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, IMN spokesperson claimed that the group, "lost three members during the clash."

He did not provide details of his allegations; neither could PREMIUM TIMES validate his claims.

The group also accused the police of victimisation and harassment of its members during its peaceful procession.

Despite the incessant clashes with the police, the group on Tuesday vowed to continue its demand for the release of its leader.

Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife were arrested on December 14, 2015, following a clash between members of his group and the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State. Over 300 members of the Shiite IMN were eventually killed by the soldiers, an act condemned by local and international rights groups.

The Nigerian government has failed to release Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife since then despite court rulings demanding such.

The police are yet to respond to a PREMIUM TIMES request for reasons for Wednesday's attack. A police spokesperson said an official statement would be sent. It was yet to be sent as at the time of this report.

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