Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nigerian Crackdown on Shiite Group Sparks Escalation Fears
2018/10/30 21:58:40

At least three people were killed when supporters of an imprisoned Shiite cleric clashed with security forces during a protest march in Abuja, prompting warnings to the government that a heavy-handed approach could radicalize elements in the group.

The military said troops and police on Monday "repelled the attack" by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), who also "fired weapons," threw stones and Molotov cocktails.

"Unfortunately during the encounter three members of the sect were killed while four soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries," the army said in a statement on Monday.

The deaths bring to six the number of IMN supporters who have been killed in demonstrations since Saturday and heighten concerns about further crackdowns on the group.

On Saturday, three IMN members were also killed during protests in Abuja. The army claimed the protesters attacked a military convoy and tried to steal weapons and ammunition.

Monday's clashes happened at a checkpoint as security services stopped the protesters coming into the city.

AFP photographs of the aftermath showed several bodies of civilians on the ground near police but it was not clear whether they were dead or injured.

IMN spokesperson Ibrahim Musa said they had received four bodies but indicated the death toll could be higher as "scores" of people were injured and troops took away

others. "We're trying to verify the number," he told AFP.

Human rights group Amnesty International said reports that troops fired live bullets at protesters were "very disturbing" and would be unlawful if they were unarmed.

The IMN has staged a series of demonstrations demanding the release of its leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in custody since December 2015 after clashes in the northern city of Zaria.

Then, the military was accused of killing more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves.

Zakzaky has been at loggerheads with Nigeria's secular authorities for years because of his calls for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution. Northern Nigeria is majority Sunni Muslim.

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