At least 13 people are reported to have been killed and a mosque torched in violence which has swept through parts of north Nigeria as Shia Muslims mark the martyrdom of a revered Islamic figure, the UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has said.
Security forces opened fire on followers of the pro-Iranian Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in the northern town of Funtua in Katsina state, reportedly killing nine people, IHRC said in a statement.
Three people are so far reported to have been killed in Kaduna city, a stronghold of the IMN, where the main mosque used by its followers was also set on fire, it added in a statement. Another fatality was reported in the north-western state of Sokoto, IHRC said. Shia are holding annual processions across the world to mark the day of Ashura, when the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson was killed in 680 AD.
The processions have been banned in some northern Nigerian states, where most people belong to the rival Sunni Muslim sect.
See the full statement of IHRC
At least nine people are reported killed after security forces opened fire at mourners taking part in an annual religious procession in Funtua / Islamic Centre in Kaduna set abalze
The killings came when soldiers attacked a peaceful procession using live rounds and tear gas in the town of Funtua in Katsina state.
In the last few minutes IHRC has also received information that the main mosque used by followers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has been set on fire by police and the army.
It is not yet known if anyone is in the Kaduna Markaz in Kaduna city. Yesterday, in a sign that the authorites were cranking up the pressure on the IMN, heavily armed soldiers surrounded the building.
Today’s violence confirmed fears that the Nigerian authorities would seek to sabotage the annual commemoration of Ashura in the country.
Annual processions are underway in many cities in the majority Muslim north of Nigeria marking the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson in the year 680 AD.
This year’s processions have been preceded by a military build-up that is reminiscent of the run-up to the massacre last December of at least one thousand IMN supporters by the army.
There has also been a spate of arrests over recent days of IMN supporters in response to a recent state-wide ban proscribing membership of the movement.
As was feared, the new law appears to be being used as an attempt to further weaken the movement whose leader Shaikh Ibrahim Zakzaky remains under arrest. Sheikh Zakzaky was shot in last December’s attack and has been in the custody of Nigeria’s internal security servcies ever since without charge.
The ban was widely interpreted as an attempt to prevent the movement’s supporters from attending ceremonies commemorating the month of Muharram. The IMN has regularly led peaceful processions in the month of Muharram