Abuja – Nigerian police said on Tuesday they had arrested dozens of Shiite Muslim followers of an outlawed group after clashes during a religious procession in the nation’s capital.
Abuja police said no casualties occurred when they dispersed the group, but a representative for the banned Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) said eight of its members were killed.
The IMN, an outlawed pro-Iranian group, has clashed with Nigerian security forces for years and often marches in Abuja, especially over the arrest of their leader, cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky.
The army killed 350 IMN Shiites, with many gunned down and burned alive according to rights groups, during a religious procession in northern Nigeria in December 2015.
Police said security forces on Tuesday intercepted IMN members who attacked them with petrol bombs and stones and they arrested 57 suspects.
“The miscreants who were found in their numbers were promptly intercepted by the security operatives and dispersed to prevent them from causing further disruption of public order,” the police statement said.
But the IMN representative said eight were killed when security forces opened fire with tear gas and then live rounds on its followers who were gathered for the Shiite Muslim Arba’een procession.
“Those who attended had even begun to disperse. Then arrived the team of the joint security agents with all sorts of savagery,” IMN representative Abdullahi Muhammad Musa said.
IMN leader Zakzaky and his wife, who had been held since 2015, were freed last month after a court acquitted them of murder charges involving the death of a soldier.
But the cleric still faces terrorism and treasonable offences charges, according to prosecutors.
Founded by Zakzaky in the late 1970s and inspired by the Iranian Revolution, the IMN has been at loggerheads with authorities for decades in a country where Shiites are a minority of the Muslim population.
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