By Queenesther Iroanusi
At least one person was killed and over 30 injured as protesting Shiites were dispersed by security operatives in Abuja on Monday, the Islamic group has stated.
The Shiites spokesperson, Ibrahim Musa, told PREMIUM TIMES the victim was yet to be identified as “the protesters came from various towns.”
Mr Mohammed also stated that over 200 protesters were arrested by the police, who he accused of being the first to attack the protesters.
“We were carrying out a peaceful protest starting from the Unity Fountain. All of a sudden, they began to attack us. They were the ones who started firing (at) us with teargas.
“We were not violent in our procession but we had to defend ourselves somehow and that was why we attacked back.
“So far, we’ve been able to confirm about 200 persons arrested, over 30 injured and one person is dead,” he told PREMIUM TIMES via telephone.
The protesters took to the Unity Fountain, beside Transcorp Hotel to demand the release of the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been detained without trial for over two years.
The Nigerian government has kept the Shiite leader in custody since 2015 when his group had an encounter with a convoy of the Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, leading to the massacre of about 300 Shiite members, including Mr El-Zakzaky’s sons.
Several security officers from the army, police as well as civil defence on Monday forcefully dispersed the protesters as eyewitnesses said the officers fired teargas and gun shots into the air.
Videos and footages have also been released by eyewitnesses showing the dispersal of the protesters and some of them throwing stones at police vehicles.
Monday’s action came a few days after the the Abuja police commissioner, Sadiq Bello, placed an indefinite ban on daily sit-outs at Unity Fountain by pro-democracy and good governance advocates across Abuja, a move that was condemned by activists.
Mr Bello told PREMIUM TIMES he took the decision because he sees the the groups, including the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement, as public “nuisance.”
“All of them are in the same category, they’re disrupting people’s activities and infringing on their human rights by blocking the roads and other things. They’re constituting a nuisance” the commissioner told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Friday night.
The Shiites spokesperson, however, vowed not to relent until their leader is released.
“We are demanding the release of our leader and we are going to continue our peaceful protest. If they attack us, no problem. We will continue with our protest. Tomorrow, insha Allah, we are coming out to continue the protest,” he said.
When contacted, the Abuja police spokesperson, Manzah Anjuguri, said the police would soon release a statement on the incident.