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El-Zakzaky: One dead as police, Shi’ites clash in Abuja

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Molly Kilete; Ndubuisi Oji, Abuja

One person was reportedly killed after members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) clashed with the police around the Unity Fountain in Abuja, yesterday.

A witness said the deceased was an IMN member.

“He was shot dead while trying to gain access to the Unity Fountain alongside members of the sect,” the witness said.

On Friday, the police announced a ban on protests at arena. However, IMN members assembled around the place on Monday and were denied access.

The protesters were said to have stood their ground and when the police lost control of the crowd, they started firing into the air.

A bullet fired by one of the officers was said to have pierced the window of an office at the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) headquarters nearby.

In recent times, Shi’ites have been converging on the Unity Fountain to demand the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the group, who has been in custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) for over two years.

El-Zakzaky was arrested in December 2015 after some of his followers clashed with soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State.

Over 300 people were said to have been killed during the clash.

The group has held a series of protests over the continued detention of El-Zakzaky.

Anjuguri Manzah, spokesman of the FCT Police Command, said he had no information on the attack.

Security has been beefed up in the  Federal Capital Territory, following the influx of members of the Shi’ite movement in the city over the weekend.

Security personnel, comprising the army, mobile police, National Security and Civil Defence Corps, as well as personnel from the Federal Road Safety Corps, as early as 1am on Monday, took over some major streets in the FCT, to prevent both the Shi’ite members and the Bring Back Our Girls group from embarking on their peaceful protest, which has virtually become the order of the day for some months now.

The Shi’ite group has for sometime now been embarking on protests to demand the unconditional release of their leader, El-Zazaky who has been in detention for about three years now after his supporters clashed with the convoy of the chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, while on an official visit to Zaria, Kaduna State.

Only last Saturday, Shi’ite members stormed the FCT, in their thousands thus causing pandemonium in the entire city and environs.

However, a security source told Daily Sun, that the group who were in Abuja, to celebrate the Maulud, which is the birthday of Prophet Mohammed, actually got a police permit from the commissioner of police in charge of the FCT, Bello Muhammed, to converge in Abuja, for the celebrations.

A security source told Daily Sun that it took the intervention of some top military officers to get to talk to some very powerful Muslim clerics to persuade the members to leave before they vacated the road leading to the National Mosque and other parts of Abuja that they occupied.

However, the group, which has vowed not to give up their protest, showed up again at about 11am Monday and violence erupted.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has   demanded an immediate probe into the clash between security forces and the Shi’ite movement, even as the FCT Police Command said it has arrested 115 members of IMN who took part in the violent protest.

The police also said it recovered weapons like catapults, iron bars, stones, ball bearings and pink headbands from the suspects now in custody.

The police also claimed that 22, of its personnel were injured during the protest.

Manzah said a team of detectives from the command and operatives from the Inspector General of Police Monitoring Unit has commenced investigation into the incident after which the suspects would be be charged to court.

He stressed that no life was lost as was alleged but warned that the ban on public protests and breach of public peace was still in force.

The PDP, through it national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party was worried over the handling of security issues in the FCT.

The party, while sueing for calm,  blamed the clash on the detention of El-Zakzak by the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The statement read: “The party is gravely worried over the handling of security in the nation’s capital and the near breakdown of law and order, which resulted in stampede and disruption of public and private businesses in the city centre.”

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