One person has been reportedly killed and several others injured after members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) clashed with the police in the capital Abuja.
The police, using tear gas and live ammunitions, forcefully dispersed Muslim protesters demanding the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, at the Unity Fountain on Monday.
Sheikh Zakzaky has been detained without trial for over two years.
Abdullahi Muhammad, an IMN leader, said he witnessed police dragging bullet-hit protesters into a van and sitting on them, adding that he did not know if they were dead or alive.
“As we started protesting they started shooting tear gas and using water cannons,” Muhammad said, noting, “We refused to disperse and they used bullets as well, and they shot so many people.”
“They want to push us to violence but they couldn’t, so that is why they are using live ammunition, thinking that killing will stop us. No amount of killing will stop us.”
“The only thing that will stop these protests is when the government frees our leader.”
A number of videos uploaded on social media showed wreaths of tear gas enveloping Abuja’s streets in the upmarket Maitama district, near the landmark Transcorp Hilton hotel. Other videos showed protesters pelting an armored police vehicle with rocks before it sped away, and people fleeing the area.
Earlier this year, at least two young students were killed by security forces during protests for Sheikh Zakzaky’s release in Kaduna, which broke out on January 7.
The top Shia cleric lost his left eyesight in the raid which was carried out by the Nigerian army on his residence in the northern town of Zaria in December 2015.
During the raid, Sheikh Zakzaky’s wife sustained serious wounds too and more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons were killed. The cleric, his wife, and a large number of his followers have since been in custody.
A judicial inquiry after the 2015 brutal raid concluded that the military had killed 347 IMN members in Zaria. Soldiers buried the bodies in mass graves.
Several international organizations and human rights groups have denounced “the Zaria massacre.”
The violent repression of Shia Muslims has drawn accusations that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is abusing human rights.