The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) denounced yet another attack by the Nigerian army on Shia mourners marking Arbaeen.
On Tuesday, the army and security forces once again opened fire on supporters of IMN during the annual religious procession near the capital Abuja, killing at least one person and injuring some others.
According to local residents and witnesses, police fired live bullets and tear gas at thousands of members of the IMN as they took part in the peaceful procession to commemorate Arbaeen, the 40th day since the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam.
The IMN supporters were also demanding the immediate release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
Abdullahi Muhammed, an IMN leader, said at least one protester was killed as the violence escalated. “The police they blocked the way, they started shooting tear gas and they used bullets.”
He added that the group was still trying to figure out how many were killed in Tuesday’s clash.
IMN sources earlier said the group will go ahead with plans for “Arbaeen Symbolic Trek” and expected that more than a million would turn up for the march.
On Monday, too, soldiers had opened fire on a protest in Abuja by IMN.
IMN protesters say the army killed at least 24 of their members in the Monday shootings, but the military has said only three people died and four soldiers were injured.
At least 10 people were killed in an attack by Nigerian security forces against Muslims on Saturday. Reports in local Nigerian media said scores of people had also been injured after Nigerian security forces opened fire on Muslim worshipers gathering for a procession in Zuba in Gwagwalada area of Abuja.
Amnesty International said reports that troops were firing live bullets at protesters were “very disturbing.”
“Firing live bullets at unarmed protesters is unlawful,” it said.
Rights groups have accused Nigeria's military of killing more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves during the 2015 confrontation, a charge the military strongly denies.
Nigeria’s crackdown on IMN followers began in December 2015, when the army attacked a religious ceremony in the city of Zaria in the northern Nigeria. Nigerian forces later raided the house of IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky and arrested him after killing those attempting to protect the prominent Muslim cleric.
Scores of Zakzaky’s followers were detained during the brutal raid by security forces on the cleric’s IMN headquarters in December 2015.
During the raid, Nigerian forces killed nearly 300 of Zakzaky’s supporters, including three of his sons, and later buried them in mass graves.
Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, who were shot and injured during the raid, were taken into custody.
A Federal High Court had ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release in 2016, but the Nigerian government has so far refused to abide by the ruling.
A spokesman for the Islamic movement stated back in March that the government in Abuja was planning to indefinitely hold the cleric and his wife in custody.