By Olisemeka Obeche & Idu Okechukwu
Not fewer than seven persons, including a deputy commissioner of police, were feared dead following another bloody clash between operatives of the Nigerian police and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Shiites on Monday in Abuja.
A reporter with Channels Television was also reportedly hit by a stray bullet during the violent protest that turned bloody, with security operatives with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) bay and ambulance located opposite the headquarters of the foreign affairs ministry also torched.
The IMN members were protesting the refusal of the federal government to release its leader, Shiekh Ibrahim El Zakzaky, and his wife, who have been in detention since December 2015 when the violence broke out.
Orient Daily gathered that security operatives deployed to police the protesters, had deployed teargas in dispersing the crowd but, later, resorted live bullets when the protesters advanced towards the Federal Secretariat in the Central Business District and the Three Arm Zone, housing the Presidency, the Supreme Court and the National Assembly.
Policemen had cordoned off the road leading to the National Assembly and the Three Arms Zone and disrupted the protest with the aid of teargas to disperse the crowd.
Monday’s incident comes about two weeks after two Shiites were killed and two police officers injured after a similar protest turned violent at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
The Shiites had begun a protest at NITEL Junction and were expected to end at the secretariat. It was not clear at what point the initially peaceful protest turned violent. The Shiites, however, claim they were attacked by the police.
A member of the IMN, Yahaya Mohammed, said the Shiite members were only having a peaceful protest when military officers attacked them. “Which clash. There was no clash between us and anybody. It was a peaceful protest. Until these security officers just came and started shooting and attacking us,” Mr Mohammed said.
IMN spokesperson, Abdullahi Musa claimed that about six members of their movement were shot dead, while other injured members were taken away by the police. Musa stated that trouble started for them while they were on their normal daily procession to demand for the release of their leaders and other members.
He noted that their members had peacefully commenced the procession from the popular NICON Junction in Maitama District and was headed to the Federal Secretariats in the Central Business District of the city. He however, denied that their members attacked the police with arms or burnt the NEMA facilities.
Musa also vowed that not even the killings of their members by security agencies would stop the protest and demand for the release of El’Zakzaky, his wife and other members who still being held.
He said, ” we have six dead bodies with us now, and police has taken a full truck load of our injured members. We cannot confirm the total number of those who were killed for now.
“It is not true that our members burnt NEMA Ambulance; we didn’t shoot at anybody as being claimed; it was the police that opened fire on our members.
“Our procession started peacefully from the NICON Junction from where we marched to the Federal Secretariat. We are not going back on the demand for the release of our leaders. If you don’t know, Sheikh El’zakzaky has become very weak. They are poisoning him and have refused to release him after the court granted him bail”.
However, unconfirmed report also said that a police officer and a television camera man were hit by stray bullets during the exchange of fire between the security agencies and Shiite movement.
By Olisemeka Obeche & Idu Okechukwu