There are report of at least one fatality and many injuries after Nigerian armed forces opened fire with live ammunition at a peaceful procession making its way to an annual commemoration of Ashura in the northern city of Kano.
The procession is one of many strands from all over the country making their way to Zaria where they will join the main procession which in previous years has been attended by several million people.
Tear gas was also fired at the marchers by soldiers who blocked the road seeking to stop the procession from proceeding to its destination.
The attacks come despite a letter last week by Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) to the Nigerian president demanding that he act to ensure the protection of those taking part in the annual 40th day commemorations of Ashura next week.
The letter followed credible reports that the military plans to sabotage Arbaeen processions (as they are known) in a continuation of its persecution of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria which organises the events.
Today’s military attacks follow similar events last month when Ashura commemorations were targeted by security forces across several states in northern Nigeria in a continuing crackdown on the IMN. Over a dozen people were killed by police and army gunfire during the processions and many others beaten by thugs hired by the authorities to sabotage the events. Places of worship associated with the IMN were also attacked.
The Nigerian state has launched a bloody crackdown on the IMN in a bid to stem its growing popularity with rank and file Nigerians. An unprovoked attack by soldiers in December 2015 led to over 1000 people, mainly IMN members and supporters, being killed. The leader of the IMN, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was shot and arrested. He remains imprisoned without charge, in flagrant violation of domestic and international law.
IHRC is extremely concerned that the military will exploit the vulnerability of the unarmed and avowedly peaceful participants to inflict further violence on them.
Notes to editors:
The letter to President Buhari is available to read in full here
An IHRC submission to the International Criminal Court regarding the December 2015 massacre can be read here
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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
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