Islamic Human Rights Commission
29 October 2018
PRESS RELEASE – NIGERIA: Arba’een marchers fear further army attacks
Organisers of a religious procession that has entered the Nigerian capital Abuja are warning of a potential bloodbath after they received credible information that an elite unit of the Army has been tasked with cracking down on them.
According to the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, soldiers of the Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB), an elite unit assigned to protecting the President, are being readied to attack the procession.
The PBS is being deployed under the pretext that the marchers are seeking to attack the presidential villa and kill President Buhari, notwithstanding the fact that the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has always eschewed violence and has today reiterated its commitment to peaceful expression and protest.
Fears of further violence against the marchers have risen since last Friday when at least ten people were killed after soldiers opened fire on the procession as it wound down for the day. Video and photographs show soldiers chasing participants and even shooting the injured who are lying immobile on the ground.
The Arba’een procession in Abuja is one of many that take place every year in towns and cities in Nigeria to mark 40 days after the anniversary of the killing of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Husayn over 1300 years ago.
Saturday’s attack appears to be a continuation of the Nigerian authorities’ crackdown on supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, many of whom commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn. Attacks on processions in recent years have resulted in scores of fatalities and injuries to innocent people exercising their freedom of worship. Only last month security forces attacked an Ashura procession in Zaria killing one man.
In a statement issued today the Islamic Movement of Nigeria accused the Nigerian authorities of massively infiltrating the procession with agents tasked to “induce violence” and create a pretext for the army to intervene.
Also in recent months the authorities have attacked and killed protestors demonstrating against the continued detention of the leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky.
The sheikh has been in detention since he was shot along with his wife, Zeenah, and arrested during an orgy of violence unleashed over three days in December 2015 on supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in what was widely seen as a bid by the authorities to curb the movement’s growing popularity.
Last May Sheikh el-Zakzaky and his wife were arraigned by the state High Court in Kaduna charged with abetting the commission of culpable homicide when they blocked roads in the city of Zaria in December 2015. In reality the charges seem to be designed to deflect government responsibility for a planned and systematic attack by soldiers on the Islamic Movement that left at least 1000 civilians dead in December 2015, an attack which is now the subject of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court.
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Notes to editors:
Photos and video of the attack are available on request.
In March 2016 IHRC petitioned the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary inquiry into the December 2015 massacre of IMN members.
Our report which we submitted to the ICC can be found 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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