UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Police fired on members of the banned Shiite Muslim Movement of Nigeria during the Ashura commemorations across the country on Tuesday, killing more than a dozen people.
The pro-Iranian group defied a police ban on the procession of Ashura, prompting police to “brutally attack demonstrators” in several cities, the spokesman said.
“The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has confirmed the deaths of at least 12 participants in the Ashura procession across the country during a peaceful procession,” Ibrahim Moussa said in a statement.
Police refused to respond to AFP questions.
Police said Monday they would consider anyone who defied the ban to be a “terrorist”.
The majority of Nigeria’s population is Sunni.
“In the town of Katsina, many people were wounded by gunshots when police opened fire, and even tried to storm an Islamic center of the Islamic movement,” Moussa said.
He said many members of the group had been shot, meaning the death toll could rise.
He said police fired tear gas to disperse a convoy in the capital Abuja and in the city of Bauchi.
Saleh Osman Diba, a spokesman for the movement in Gombe state, said two members of the group were killed and seven wounded on Ashura.
“After the convoy was over, they were attacked by police who fired tear gas and opened fire on members of the movement,” he told AFP.
“So far two people have been killed and seven wounded. Many have been arrested while the headquarters of the Islamic Movement in Gombe has been closed,” he said.
Supporters of the Nigerian Islamist movement have been demonstrating almost daily in recent months in the capital Abuja to demand the release of their leader and founder Ibrahim Zakzaki.
On July 22, eight people – six protesters, a journalist and a policeman – were killed in violence in a Shiite march.
Days after the incident, the Nigerian presidency announced a ban on the movement’s activities and was designated a “terrorist organization.”
Zakzaki has been in jail since his arrest in December 2015 after a crackdown on a demonstration that killed hundreds of people.
Zakzki, 65, was allowed to go to India in August for medical treatment, but returned to Nigeria and complained that he was not allowed to be treated by doctors of his own choice. He also protested the tight controls imposed on him during his stay in India.
Nigeria’s Shi’ite population is estimated at 4 million out of a population of about 190 million, the majority of which is Christian.
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