The spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, has been in detention since 2015, sparking protests that have sometimes been violent [BBC]
Officers of the Nigeria Police Force have once again clashed with members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiites, during another protest in Abuja.
The Islamic sect has clashed with the Police and the Nigerian Army several times in its persistent protests against the detention of its spiritual leader, Ibrahim Elzakzaky, who was arrested alongside his wife, Zinat, in 2015.
40 Shiites were arrested on July 9, 2019 during a protest to the National Assembly that turned bloody as two officers were shot, although the sect said the officers were shot by other officers who opened fire on the IMN protesters.
The group’s spokesman, Abdullahi Musa, also claimed that two Shiites were killed during that clash.
In the latest clash that happened on Monday, July 22, armed officers cordoned off the road leading to the National Assembly and Three Arms Zone and reportedly opened fire on the protesters.
A Channels Television reporter was hit by a stray bullet, according to the media organisation, with initial reports also noting that at least two people were killed and many others injured.
The protesters are reported to have then set a sub-station of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) at the Federal Secretariat on fire. Two vehicles were also burnt in the chaos.
A sub-station of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Abuja on fire [TVC]
The Police Force assured the public on its official Twitter account that its officers are taking adequate measures to bring the situation under control.
“Citizens are advised to remain calm and avoid the affected areas in the interim,” the Force said.
The Shiite group has been vocal about its intention to keep protesting until El-Zakzaky is released from custody, especially due to his health problems.
The cleric’s application filed before the Kaduna High Court last week to travel abroad for medical treatment was adjourned till July 29.
The IMN leader brought the application before the court seeking permission to travel to Medanta Hospital, New Delhi, India for medical attention following his failing health condition.
El-Zakzaky was arrested in Zaria, Kaduna in 2015 after soldiers killed over 300 members of the sect for allegedly throwing stones at the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, an act declared by the Army to be an assassination attempt.
Corporal Yakubu Dankaduna, a soldier, was allegedly killed by IMN members when he alighted from Buratai’s convoy to disperse the group’s procession during the confrontation.
Even though a Federal High Court ordered his release in December 2016, the Department of State Security (DSS) continued to detain El-Zakzaky.
In May 2018, he was eventually arraigned before a Kaduna High Court and charged with unlawful gathering, criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide. The court denied him bail.
El-Zakzaky’s continued detention has led to allegations of persecution by members of his sect who have taken to the streets several times in protest, leading to clashes with authorities, most notably the Nigerian Army.
400 IMN members were arrested by the Police for disturbance of public peace and law and order in Abuja on October 30, 2018. They were alleged to have set a Police vehicle on fire, and arrested with 31 bottles of petrol bombs and other dangerous weapons.
A previous clash on October 27, where the Army accused Shiite protesters of attacking a convoy carrying ammunition, resulted in the death of three people, with a couple of soldiers also wounded.
The protesters returned on October 29 and got involved in another clash with the Army and the Police. While the Army reported that another three Shiites were killed, the Shia sect claimed around 50 were killed by troops.