Many people were feared killed yesterday after members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), a Shiite group, clashed with soldiers again around Nyanya area in Abuja.
Daily Trust reports that trouble started when security agents tried to stop the Shiites, who were on a procession, from moving into the FCT.
But the security agents reportedly opened fire after the IMN members refused to disperse.
It was learnt that members of the IMN pelted the security agents with stones and other items. Many members of the group were shot and others detained.
Daily Trust could not confirm the number of fatalities from the clash, but a Shiite leader said they evacuated several bodies and hope to take more from the police station.
The clash, which occurred near a military checkpoint in the area, led to chaos on the ever-busy AYA-Nyanya road yesterday, with movement on both lanes of the highway impeded for hours.
Many motorists were caught in the gridlock as they were unable to turn back. Residents in the area had to trek to their destinations.
The road was however opened at about 6:30pm even as heavily armed soldiers and policemen kept vigil on both lanes.
Abdullahi Yusuf, a motorcyclist at Kugbo, told Daily Trust that sounds of gunshots rent the air at about 3pm. But he could not confirm the number of casualties.
Daily Trust reports that at about the same time, other members of IMN held a similar procession around Katampe area, along Kubwa highway in Abuja. It however ended without any incident as soldiers prevented them from moving into the city centre.
When contacted yesterday, the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Texas Chukwu, said he could not comment on the clash because he was not in Abuja.
Also contacted, the spokesman of the FCT Police Command, DSP AnjuguriManzah, said the police were assuring members of the public of adequate security, adding that people should go about their lawful business.
The IMN had earlier asked the general public to hold the Nigerian authorities responsible in the event that violence breaks out during the movement’s Arbaeen procession in Abuja.
IMN, in a statement by its media forum’s president, Ibrahim Musa, alleged that the Nigerian security apparatus had commissioned its men and paid agents to infiltrate the procession to induce violence with a view to smearing the movement in the eyes of the world.
Daily Trust reports that yesterday’s clash happened less than 48 hours after six IMN members were killed around Zuba where they clashed with soldiers moving ammunitions to Kaduna.
Daily Trust learnt that the Shiites moved their procession to Abuja as they continued to demand for the release of their detained leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky who is also facing trial in Kaduna.
The Shiite leader was arrested in 2015 after a confrontation between the members of his group and the soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that 53 members of the IMN were recently arrested by the police in Abuja following a violent protest.
Since the arrest and detention of Zakzakky, his followers had organized series of protests in some cities in the country, calling for his release.
The members said the government has no reason to continue detaining their leader after the bail granted him by the court.