Twelve dead in Nigerian religious marches


A Nigerian Shi’ite group banned by government said police killed 12 members and injured more during marches to mark a Muslim holiday.

The government banned the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in July after deadly clashes with police. IMN said police were responsible for the deaths of at least 20 people in July but the police gave no death toll.

Police in of Kaduna, where IMN said three were killed and 10 injured on Tuesday, disputed the account and said it dispersed marchers “professionally”. A national police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The group was marching to mark Ashura, the day in Islamic tradition when the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hussein died in battle.

Police warned IMN members not to march, saying any gathering or procession by group members is “ultimately illegal and will be treated as a gathering in the advancement of terrorism”.

IMN claim police attacked its marchers on Tuesday and in Katsina, opened fire on them. It said marchers were killed in Bauchi, Gombe and Sokoto states, all in northern Nigeria, but marches in Abuja and other northern states ended without incident.

Clashes with police recently followed calls by the group for its leader to be released from police detention.

Ibrahim Zakzaky has been held since 2015 when government forces killed around 350 people after storming an IMN compound and a nearby mosque.

Roughly half of the nearly 200 million Nigerians are Muslim, mostly concentrated in the north, Shi’ites are a minority.

Last week the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said she was not presented with any evidence to suggest IMN was weaponised and posed a threat.