The Nigerian capital, Abuja, witnessed violent clashes between Shia Muslims and police this week. Two people were reported killed by the Premium Times and another 30 injured, while Reuters reported no deaths but multiple injuries after the protests on Monday.
Members of the Shia Muslim sect were protesting the continued detention of the their spiritual leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in detention after deadly clashes with Nigerian military in 2015 that led to the massacre of 347 Shia Muslims.
Police sources denied the deaths and said 115 people had been arrested, according to Nigeria’s Daily Post newspaper.
Ibrahim Zakzaky is an Islamic cleric who was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria, and has been leader of the country’s Shia Muslims. He has drawn hundreds of thousands of followers with charismatic sermons. This led to the formation of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) which has strong support from Iran.
While protesting on Monday against the detention of their leader, the Shia demonstrators reportedly armed themselves with sticks and stones, vandalizing vehicle windshields along their path and threw stones at police vehicles.
The police reportedly fired at crowds with water cannon and tear gas, leaving many injured.
Following the unrest, people began sending messages warning contacts to avoid the Aguiyi Ironsi – Transcorp axis in Maitama, Abuja.
Ibrahim El-Zakzaky has been detained by the Department of State Security without trial since December 2015. He was granted bail by the court but the Federal Government has kept him in detention.
El-Zakzaky’s health has been deteriorating while in custody. It was reported that he had lost his sight on one eye while his second eye is seriously affected by glaucoma.