Fears are growing that the Nigerian army could be about to mount an attack on the Islamic Movement of Nigeria similar to one last year that resulted in the massacre of at least 1000 civilians.
Residents in the northern city of Potiskum, Yobe State, report that military vehicles including including armoured personnel carriers surrounded the IMN centre there before leaving without incident.
The military deployment follows several successive days of provocation by the military involving soldiers, whose presence has been beefed up in Potiskum, intimidating locals by chanting war songs.
Local imams have also been whipping up anti-IMN sentiment by talking of an ‘imminent war’. The Yobe state commissioner for religious affairs Mala Musti has been particularly active in inciting hatred against the IMN making hate speeches and lobbying local government.
IMN leaders are concerned that religious and political leaders have joined forces in the state to target the IMN under the pretext of fighting religious extremism.
A military assault between December 12-14 last year on the supporters and property of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria left over 1000 people dead and destroyed many properties and religious spaces belonging to the movement in the city of Zaria.
IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky was arrested along with his wife Zeenah Ibrahim in the attack and the pair remain in detention without charge and unable to access much needed medical treatment.
Although the IMN has support among Nigeria’s Sunnis and Shias it is often portrayed by its detractors as a Shia organisation. Throughout his life Sheikh El-Zakzaky has been a fierce critic of political corruption and malpractice in Nigeria and his views have seen him imprisoned and many times. He is also an outspoken opponent of the Boko Haram movement.
The continuing persecution of the IMN suggests Nigerian authorities are engaged in a systematic campaign to cripple the movement whose popularity has made it a thorn in the side of Nigerian governments.
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Notes to editors:
Last March IHRC called on the International Criminal Court to to open a preliminary inquiry into the December 2015 massacre.
Our report which we submitted to the ICC can be found at https://ihrc.org.uk/publications/reports/11646-investigating-the-attack-against-the-islamic-movement-of-nigeria-on-12-13-december-2015-in-zaria[Ends]
IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
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Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222