Oct 30, 2018 16:10 UTC
  • Nigerian police open fire on Shia mourners commemorating Arba’een

Nigerian security forces have once again opened fire on supporters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria during an annual religious procession near the capital Abuja, one day after they martyred nearly 20 protesters.

According to local residents and witnesses, police fired live bullets and tear gas at thousands of members of the IMN as they took part in the peaceful procession to commemorate Arba’een, the 40th day since the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (peace be upon him), Muslims' third Imam.

The IMN supporters were also demanding the immediate release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, while marking Arba’een. The clashes took place as police attempted to stop IMN members as they headed towards the center of Abuja. Some reports said the protesters responded by hurling rocks at the heavily-armed security operatives in the area.

IMN sources earlier said the group will go ahead with plans for “Arba’een Symbolic Trek” and expected that more than a million would turn up for the march.

On Monday, soldiers opened fire on a protest in Abuja by IMN.

IMN protesters say the army martyred at least 18 of their members in the Monday shootings, but the military has said only three people were martyred and four soldiers were injured.

At least 10 people were martyred in an attack by Nigerian security forces against Muslims on Saturday. Reports in local Nigerian media said scores of people had also been injured after Nigerian security forces opened fire on Muslim worshipers gathering for a procession in Zuba in Gwagwalada area of Abuja.

Amnesty International said reports that troops were firing live bullets at protesters were "very disturbing." "Firing live bullets at unarmed protesters is unlawful."

Rights groups have accused Nigeria's military of martyring more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves during the 2015 confrontation, a charge the military strongly denies.

Nigeria’s crackdown on IMN followers began in December 2015, when the army attacked a religious ceremony in the city of Zaria in the northern Nigeria. Nigerian forces later raided the house of IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky and arrested him after martyring those attempting to protect the prominent Muslim cleric.

Scores of Zakzaky’s followers were detained during the brutal raid by security forces on the cleric’s IMN headquarters in December 2015.

During the raid, Nigerian forces martyred nearly 300 Zakzaky’s supporters, including three of his sons, and later buried them in mass graves.

Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, who were shot and injured during the raid, were taken into custody.

A Federal High Court had ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release in 2016, but the Nigerian government has so far refused to abide by the ruling.

A spokesman for the Islamic movement stated back in March that the government in Abuja was planning to indefinitely hold the cleric and his wife in custody.