Fatalities as Nigerian police fire on Ashura marchers

Ashura procession, Abuja, 10 September 2019

PRESS RELEASE

At least three people are dead and many more wounded after police opened fire with live ammunition on marchers in Nigeria taking part in annual Ashura processions.

The fatalities were reported in Kaduna state and include a minor who was shot in the head.

Armed attacks on marchers were also reported in Katsina state from where mobile phone video shows security forces firing tear gas at a peaceful procession from behind.

Several marchers were also wounded in Illela, Sokoto state, and police have also shot at marchers in the town of Gombe.

Abuja is on lockdown as armed forces block roads leading into the capital. Nevertheless a procession went ahead on the outskirts of the city.

Information, both leaked and officially released in the run up to Ashura, had suggested that the authorities were planning to prevent and disrupt the processions which regularly draw large numbers of participants.

It came after the government announced a ban on all activities of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, which organises Ashura processions and other events, proscribing it as a terrorist organisation.

Despite the ban tens of thousands of people turned out for the processions today including women and children.

In a bid to prevent bystanders getting caught up in any violence, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria which organises the processions, scheduled them to begin in the early hours when the streets are relatively quiet.

In July the federal government listed the Islamic Movement as a terrorist organisation in an ongoing bloody crackdown against the organisation that has seen thousands of its supporters killed in the last three years. However protests against the decision and the ongoing incarceration of the movement’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife have continued around the country.

Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah have been under arrest since the Islamic Movement was subjected to a brutal attack by government forces in 2015 resulting in the deaths of over 1000 supporters, including three sons of the couple. The attack marked the beginning of an official campaign to crush the movement which claims a mass following in Nigeria and has been highly critical of government policies especially vis a vis the United States and Israel.

Since then Nigerian authorities have regularly targeted the peaceful marches and religious gatherings that take place on Ashura and its fortieth day anniversary known as Arba’een, attacking protestors with live ammunition.

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