More Shi’ite, security forces clashes in Nigeria

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Nigerian troops and police again clashed with Shi’ite Muslim protesters in Abuja and gunfire was heard, according to a Reuters witness.

The air was thick with tear gas as soldiers and police officers made arrests. The Shi’ite group marched in protest against continued detention of its leader, despite a court ruling he be released.

The violence happened a day after at least three people – including a journalist and senior policeman – were killed in a similar confrontation in the administrative heart of Abuja. Up to 10 more people may have died in the violence, a spokesman for the Shi’ites said.

A Reuters reporter witnessed the funeral in Nigeria’s northern state Niger for six of killed in Monday’s protest. A man whose child was killed during said his son was a martyr.

“The only thing that will stop this protest is for government to free our leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky,” said Abdullahi Musa.

“We are not armed. If we were armed, these people cannot face us. It’s because we are unarmed that is why they are killing us, shooting us and this will never deter us from what we are doing,” he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a Sunni like the vast majority of Nigeria’s Muslim community, warned in a statement before the protest: “Let nobody or group doubt or test our will to act in the higher interest of the majority of our citizens.”

“Perpetrators of the mayhem will not go unpunished and no government can tolerate unceasing affront to constituted authority,” he added.

Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) members regularly take to the streets of Abuja to call for the release of Zakzaky, in detention since 2015. They say Zakzaky requires medical help. Live ammunition and teargas was used by security forces in recent weeks.

Clashes between police and Zakzaky’s backers raise fears the IMN might turn to violent insurgency as did Sunni Islamist group Boko Haram after police killed their leader in 2009.