UPDATED: Gunshots in Abuja as police disperse protesting Shi’ites

Shiites protesters being arrested by the Nigeria Police (Photo Credit: @uche_ezeonye on Twitter)
Shiites protesters being arrested by the Nigeria Police (Photo Credit: @uche_ezeonye on Twitter)

The police have dispersed a procession of members of the banned Islamic Movement of Nigeria who trooped out to call for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

The protest started on Sultan Abubakar Way, Abuja, at about 1:55 p.m. Friday.

The protesters in their numbers hoisted two flags, one red and the other black, with the chant: “Labaika yah Hussein. Free El-Zakzaky”, loosely translated as “Welcome you Hussein. Free El-Zakzaky”.

Hussein, one of the grandsons of Prophet Muhammad, is seen by the Shi’ites as their third imam.

As the protesters marched, a team of police officers followed behind, shooting in the air and firing tear gas canisters.

Soon, the procession of protesters thinned out, with members blending with other Muslim worshipers returning from Friday jummah prayer.

But the police trailed the procession down to Wuse market to see where the protesters moved.

One of the worshippers was heard saying, “this is not Islam”, referring to the protesters.

The action of the police to shoot in the air and fire tear gas canisters panicked passersby as they were seen taking shield to hide.

Ashafa Murnai told PREMIUM TIMES he ran “like Ronaldo down to Wuse market”, a distance of about 1 km from the road the protest started.

A similar protest in July had recorded the death of a journalist, a police chief, and more than a dozen Shi’ites.

In the wake of this incidence, the federal government secured a court order to proscribe the group by categorizing them as a terrorist group.

With the proscription of the sect sealed, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had said any attempt at protest by the group would be scuttled and its members would be treated as terrorists.

Amnesty International had condemned the proscription saying it is a “deliberate attempt to divert attention from crucial issues including justice for the massacre of over 350 in Zaria in December 2015 as well as many other IMN supporters killed by security agencies over the years”.

However, the government had insisted it did not infringe on the rights of association of the Shiites but that it only clipped the excesses of alleged violent members of the IMN group.

The leader of the IMN has been held in custody since 2015, amidst court orders to release him.

Dozens of Shiite members have been killed and injured during protests, by security officers, since December 2015 when Mr El-Zakzaky was arrested following a clampdown on the group by soldiers.

BELOW IS OUR EARLIER REPORT ON THIS DEVELOPING STORY

The police have dispersed a procession of members of the banned Islamic Movement of Nigeria who trooped out to call for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

The protest started on Sultan Abubakar Road at about 1:55 p.m. Friday.

The protesters in their numbers hoisted two flags, one red and the another black, with the chant: “Labaika yah Hussein. Free Zakzaky”, loosely translated as “Welcome you, Hussein. Free Zakzaky”.

Hussein is seen by the Shi’ites as their first imam.

As the protesters marched, a team of police officers followed behind, shooting in the air and firing tear gas canisters.

Soon, the procession of protesters thinned out, with members blending with other Muslim worshipers returning from Friday jummah prayer.

Details later…

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