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.
After PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry, the police released the statement below explaining the attack on the IMN members.
Shiite Protest: Police Arrest 52 Suspects in Abuja
Following the violent protest by members of the El-Zakzaky Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) group who went on rampage and were attacking innocent citizens including Police operatives on Wednesday 10th January, 2018, the FCT Police Command has arrested some members of the sect and recovered some bottles of improvised petrol-bomb, stones and catapult used by members of the sect to attack police operatives and damage police operational vehicles.
It is pertinent to state that the unlawful action of members of the sect which started on Monday 8th January, 2018 is constituting a serious security threat to the peace of the Federal Capital Territory and at the same time disrupting innocent citizens from going about their lawful businesses.
In view of the current security situation in the Country, the Command wishes to unequivocally state that while it will continue to be professional in the discharge of its constitutional and statutory roles of the protection of lives and property of the good people of FCT; and equally recognise the rights of citizens to express their lawful grievances, the Command will not fold its arms and watch some persons hold the capital city to ransom by disrupting government and legitimate business activities.
In view of the foregoing, the Command wants to state that any person or group of persons arrested for violating the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution while registering their protest will be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the appropriate section(s) of the law.
Meanwhile, the fifty-two (52) members of the El-Zakzaky group arrested by police operatives during today 10th January, 2018 violent protest that left some policemen with injury will be charged to court upon the conclusion of the investigation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The police reaction was received after the report was published. The story was consequently updated.