Press release – Nigeria: Government must act to halt spread of sectarianism


IHRC is urging the government of Nigeria to act swiftly and decisively in order to halt a disturbing spate of sectarian attacks directed at the country’s minority Shia Muslims.

The call comes after last Friday’s horrific attack on a procession in which 23 people were killed and 46 wounded.

The marchers were en route to a huge annual gathering in Zaria to commemorate the 40th day anniversary of Ashura – when Shia Muslims traditionally mourn the assassination of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Husayn, in 680AH – organised by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in nearby Zaria on 3 December. The gathering attracts some 15 million people every year.

According to eye-witnesses the attackers made use of a kidnapped, tortured and drugged individual who was loaded with explosive material on his body and sent to the procession as it reached Dakasoye village in Kano state. As he was being apprehended when trying to join the marchers the bomb was detonated, seemingly from an external source.

The letter calls on the Nigerian government to take urgent steps to ensure the safety of the gathering and other processions leading to it. It also calls for a zero tolerance approach to be taken towards sectarianism that seeks to eliminate the menace at source.

Although Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for Friday’s massacre, a string of other recent attacks have been the work of hardline groups or individuals seeking to stoke sectarian tensions in the country,

Last November 30 people were killed and about 50 others injured after a suicide bomber targeted a Shia gathering to mark Ashura in Potiskum, Yobe state. In April a suicide bomber blew himself up as Shias prayed at an open-air mosque in Potiskum.

IHRC has also learned of a spate of attacks against Shias in the city of Jos in October this year which left over 30 people injured, some with broken limbs, and at least two mosques destroyed. The attacks followed a campaign of incitement by an anti-Shia leader who has long been agitating for their removal from the area.

In the letter to the president IHRC calls on the Nigerian authorities to arrest and bring to justice those responsible for inciting and perpetrating the violence and implement effective measures to protect those who remain vulnerable to attack.

Notes to editors:

The letter can be read in full at

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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Islamic Human Rights Commission

PO Box 598



United Kingdom

Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222



Twitter @ihrc