Police deny killing Shiíte protesters

FILE: Shiites protest detention of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky

The Nigerian police have denied the claim by the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria that several of its members were killed by the police while dispersing their procession on Tuesday.

In various interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, the police spokespersons in Kaduna, Bauchi and Katsina states denied that they shot and killed the IMN members. Instead, the officers accused the Shiites of violent protests.

The IMN had in a statement signed by its President, media forum, Ibrahim Musa, on Tuesday accused the police of killing 12 of its members in Kaduna, Bauchi Sokoto, Gombe and Katsina states.

According to the IMN, the protests were peaceful in Abuja and a few other states because they were not interrupted by the police.

The IMN members said the reported deaths where the protests were interrupted by security operatives “was evidence of the fact that the security officers were the perpetrators of the violence recorded during our previous protests.”

“The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has confirmed the killing of at least a dozen of Ashura mourners across the nation during the peaceful Ashura mourning procession today, 10/09/2019.

“At least three people were confirmed killed by the police in Kaduna and 10 others injured, some fatally, when thousands of Muslim brothers and sisters trooped out in the early hours of today Tuesday 10/09/2019 commemorating the tragic events of Ashura.

“In Bauchi, reports also have it that three people were killed during the Ashura processio when the police attacked the mourners. Likewise, three other people were killed by the police in Azare, also in Bauchi state. Another three people were killed by the police in Gombe state.

“One person was reportedly killed by the police in Illela, during the Ashura procession there, and another person was killed in Goronyo all in Sokoto state. In Malumfashi, Katsina state also another person was killed. In Katsina town, however, several people sustained bullet wounds when the police opened fire on the mourners, not only during the mourning procession but afterwards as the well-armed policemen attempted to forcibly make their way into the Islamic centre of the Movement,” the IMN said.

According to the group, the number of casualties may rise due to the fatal nature of gunshots from the police.

“This year’s Ashura procession was held in all the state capitals of the North and Abuja. It ended peacefully in Abuja, Jos, Kebbi, Minna, Lafia, Yola, Gusau, Zaria, Kano, Jalingo, Damaturu, Hadejia and Potiskum.

READ ALSO: Three Shiite IMN members die in police custody, 15 held incommunicado – Amnesty International

“Today’s show of shame and rage by the police across the states was sequel to the tragic orders given to it by the Inspector general of police, Mohammed Adamu to brutally attack the peaceful Ashura mourners.

“That the mourning procession ended peacefully in places not attacked by the police is sufficient evidence as to who the instigators of violence are whenever we are carrying out our legitimate religious duties,” the IMN said in its statement.

Police response

But in a reaction to the allegations, the spokesperson of the police in Kaduna State, Yakubu Sabo, denied the reports. He described them as the usual antics employed by the IMN members whenever they were prevented from embarking on protests.

“Today at 6: 50 a.m we were told that some members of Shiites were sited around Nnamdi Azikiwe expressway by Bakin Ruwa Rigasa Kaduna State Staging a protest and chanting slogans and seeking the release of their leader. So on receipt of that information, a team of policemen were dispatched to go there and disperse them.

“They had been warned not to come out, they have been proscribed by the country and the state but they defied the warning against their protest. And when they came out they were violent. They constituted a nuisance. They came with catapults and were firing at the policemen. Some of the commuters in the area had their vehicles bashed. That is violence.

“We have not received any reports of casualties until they came with this news. And this is not new. Anytime they come out for protest and we decide to disperse them, they will say that their members have been killed,” Mr Yakubu told PREMIUM TIMES.

In a similar interview, the spokesperson of the Bauchi State police command, Kamal Abubakar, said they arrested 28 IMN members but denied reports that there were casualties.

“We had engaged the traditional rulers in the state to advise them not to come out but they defied the advice of their traditional rulers and came out in Azere and we tried to disperse them but they started throwing stones at us. But we dispersed them and it did not take long before the situation was brought under control. 28 of them were arrested. I am not aware of any casualties,” Mr Abubakar said.

His counterpart in Katsina state, Isah Gambo, said the Shiite members hurled stones at police officers and broke the leg of a police officer.

“They came out and said they wanted to protest and we told them that they cannot protest. That other Shia members that are not from them will be allowed to protest,” he said.

”They started throwing stones and some of them brought out cutlasses. As I am speaking to you one of our officers has been injured in the leg. We arrested six at Malumfashi. We have arrested over 36 people. If they have the corpse let them bring it. We used minimum force to disperse them. No gunshots were fired,” Mr Gambo told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone.

The Gombe state police spokesperson, Mary Malum, did not respond to phone calls by PREMIUM TIMES at the time of filing this report

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