About eight persons were allegedly killed on Tuesday when members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiites, and security operatives clashed in Abuja.
The Shiites were observing their annual Arbaeen Symbolic Trek in the federal capital, causing heavy traffic gridlock.
Arbaeen is a religious practice observed on 20th Safar of Islamic calendar to mark the 40th day of the killing of Imam Hussein, Prophet Mohammed’s grandson. He was killed on 10th Muharram.
The peaceful procession, which began early Tuesday morning, allegedly turned bloody when members of the movement clashed with security operatives near Gwarimpa along Kubwa road, leaving some dead while many more sustained severe injuries following sporadic gun shots from policemen and soldiers.
An IMN leader, Abdullahi Musa, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, alleged that eight members of the group were killed and others injured during the procession following the clash.
He denounced the assumption that that they took to the streets of Abuja to create unrest despite the release of its leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, who was freed by a Kaduna State High Court in July alongside his wife, Zeenat.
Shiites holding a procession
Mr Musa, who is the secretary of IMN Academic Forum, explained that the teeming presence of the members of the movement around the axis was never to trouble but in celebration of Arbaeen.
“It is not a protest in any way. If you are protesting, you are agitating. We have protested before in Abuja for the release of our leader (El Zakzaky) but this Arbaeen Symbolic Trek is a global event. It is an annual event held in many places in the world,” he said.
“Here in Nigeria, we also hold the event and for the past 20 years we have been trekking on the street in support of the family of the Holy Prophet, Imam Hussein, who was massacred years back.
“Today is the fortieth day after Ashura, and it is celebrated globally. We have been doing this in Zaria until the massacre where they demolished our centres and covered everything, that is why we have come to Abuja,” he explained.
Mr Musa said the IMN would have held the procession in the Mararaba area of the Nasarawa State but they were deterred by heavy security presence to avert the eventual attack from the security operatives.
He further explained that they had ended the trek and were near dispersing when the security agents arrived at the scene.
“Yesterday we marched around the Suleja axis, today is the closing day. If you remember today is the 20th day of Arafat. We were not even coming to the city because they occupied everywhere. We decided to march from the modern city Gwarimpa to the Gwarimpa main bus-stop.
“We successfully marched to that place, we had concluded and we were already dispersing when the combination of police and soldiers arrived. While the police were shooting teargas, the soldiers were shooting at us.
Shiites holding a procession
“As I speak to you, we have eight corpses. I can’t confirm if they are all our members because you know that place is a public place. There were a lot of people there and it was around 10am when people were trying to get to their offices. They were just shooting, many people sustained injuries, and many of us were arrested,” he told this newspaper.
Another member of the group, Adam Abubakar, who escaped the clash, said they were waiting for cars to convey them back to their respective houses after the procession when he saw the team of security operatives firing shots at them.
57 arrested – Police
The FCT Police Command said a total of 57 members of IMN were arrested during the clash.
An injured Shiite member
“The total number of the arrested Shiite members is 57. The males are 39 and the females are 18. None of our security operatives were injured,” the Command’s spokesperson, Josephine Adah, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview.
Previous protests, processions
Members of the IMN have previously protested about 16 times since 2016 in the federal capital during which they demanded the release of Mr El Zakzaky.
During these protests, they clashed with the security operatives 12 times leading to several deaths and many injured.