At least one person has been arrested and many others teargassed when thousands of Shiite Muslims gathered on Thursday in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria to demand the liberation of their detained leader, Sheikh al-Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December last year when hundreds of his followers were shot dead.
The ‘Free Zakzaky’ protesters were teargassed by mobile policemen as the procession neared its end in Zaria metropolis, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, said in a statement sent to TheSimonAtebaNews.
The movement said security operatives fired on the protesters with canisters of tear gas near Kofar Doka in Zaria, “a place where a dozen of Muslims were killed in 1996 in a similar protest when The Dictator, Abacha arrested Sheikh Zakzaky”.
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Since a confrontation between the army and followers of Zakzaky left hundreds of Shiites dead last December, there have been protests nearly on a weekly basis for the liberation of Zakzaky who was arrested after the massacre.
A Judicial Commission of Inquiry by the Kaduna State government and Amnesty International have said close to 400 people were killed and many were buried in mass grave.
IMN says at least a thousand of its members were killed when the army opened fire between December 12 and 14.
The Army said the life of the Nigerian Army Chief of Staff, General Tukur Buratai was in danger as the protesters were trying to kill him.
The Shiites disputed that account, saying that it was a pre-planned event as the Chief of Army Staff like President Muhammadu Buhari are both Sunni Muslims who are allegedly forging ties with Saudi Arabia to decimate Shiites who are mainly found in Iran, Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival.
While the Zaria protests ended in chaos, similar protests held in Kaduna metropolis ended peacefully, the movement said.
Similar Free Zakzaky protests were held all over the major towns of Northern Nigeria today, the movement told TheSimonAtebaNews.
“Major towns like Kano, Gusau, Yola, and Potiskum witnessed large turnout of people calling on the Federal government to release Leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Zakzaky, who has been in custody without trial for the past eight months,” said spokesman, Ibrahim Musa.
The Islamic Movement has been organising peaceful protests to press home its demand for the unconditional release of Sheikh Zakzaky to attend to his failing health.