Protests by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) popularly known as Shi’ite, across the Northern part of the country yesterday claimed no fewer than 16 lives.
In Kaduna State, members of the Shi’ite group banned by the state government, last week, gathered at Tudun Wada community in Kaduna South local government area to commemorate historical events associated with the Islamic month of Muharram, which are particularly significant in the Shi’ite calendar.
A witness, Mohammed Idris, told LEADERSHIP that while they were gathered, a group of irate youths launched an attack on the Shi’ite members, burnt down the house of a member, one Muhktar, and also demolished the Shi’ite-owned Islamic school in the area.
The witness further alleged that the police ordered the youths to “attack us and to destroy our buildings.”
According to him, the mob prevented the Shi’ite members from entering their communities after being dispersed by the police, using tear gas.
“They were not in their traditional black dresses while being dispersed with police tear gas but were identified by vigilant youths who engaged them in a fight. Those who resisted were killed; the house of their leader, Mukhtar, was burnt down and their Markas (school) is currently being demolished by youths,” Idris said.
In Katsina, the Shi’ite members said security agents stopped a peaceful procession of their members in Funtua town using bullets, leaving no fewer than 10 dead and scores injured
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on the condition of anonymity as he was not permitted to talk to the press, a highly placed member of the Islamic sect said the clash occurred yesterday morning along the Funtua-Zaria road when members of the IMN were observing a religious procession known as Day of ‘Ashura, which is normally conducted in the Muslim world on the 10th of Muharram, according to the Islamic calendar.
The procession came barely 48 hours after the police in Katsina outlawed any such processions in the state and neighbouring Kaduna and Kano States.
The state police command on Monday announced that it had banned all forms of processions, rallies and unlawful assemblies by ‘religious groups or any group of people’ in the state.
The command had said that “any person(s) caught violating this order will be arrested and prosecuted”
LEADERSHIP learnt that trouble started when security operatives, in a bid to disperse the Shi’ite members, threw tear gas canisters at them but they remained there.
It was further learnt that several people died at the spot while those wounded were taken to the Funtua General Hospital after the fierce encounter which led to the use of fire arms by the security operatives.
At the time of filing in this report, the state police commissioner, Usman Abdullahi and other security chiefs in the state were said to be in Funtua to ensure normalcy was restored in the town and environs.
Security had been beefed up in the state capital and across the state, following the incident, as security operatives moved in to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
The spokesman of the Katsina state police command, Salisu Abubakar Agaisa, could not be reached for comments as all calls to his mobile phone received no response.
The situation was the same in Sokoto State where one Shi’ite member was killed during the procession within the metropolis.
The killed member, Alhaji Faruku Khalid, was said to have brought other members from his state, Kebbi, and went to the town for some commitments after the procession before he was attacked and killed by a gang.
Narrating the incident to LEADERSHIP, leader of the group in the state, Sheikh Mohammed Kasimu Umar, said the procession was very peaceful and that nobody molested them.
He, however, decried the attitude of some hoodlums that attacked and killed one of their members who came from Kebbi state, around Tudun Wada area of Sokoto North metropolis.
Expressing his disappointment over the killing, Umar said, “The police wanted to restrict us to a particular place but later allowed us to continue with our peaceful procession in remembrance of the killings of Imam Husseini, a grandchild of Prophet Mohammed with his family in a place called Makalbara in Iraq.
“We started the procession from Rijiya area of the metropolis to Specialist Hospital, then Rima Radio Street to Bauchi Road and finally to a street at Mebera area.
“When we were done with the annual solidarity remembrance, one of our members, Alhaji Faruku Khalid, who brought other members from Kebbi state went into the town to do other commitments. He was however attacked around the Tudun Wada area of Sokoto north by some hoodlums known as (Yandaba) because they saw him in black attire.
“He died as a result of injuries inflicted on him by the hoodlums. His car was equally burnt by the hoodlums,” Umar told LEADERSHIP.
Confirming the incident, Sokoto state Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Abdulkadir, said one person was killed and his car burnt in the incident.
He added that three motorcycles were also destroyed in another clash at Tamaje area of the metropolis.
Abdulkadir noted, however, that the police intervened and normalcy was instantly restored.
Also in Kano State, one member of Shiite sect, Jaafar Dandinshe, was killed by angry youth when the Shi’ite members held a procession round the city of Kano to mark the day of Ashura.
It was also confirmed to LEADERSHIP that 138 members of the sect were arrested in the state.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the Shi’ite members in their hundreds embarked on a walk from the city jumaat mosque of Fagge and continued the procession through Ibrahim Taiwo road and IBB road to Abattoir area in metropolitan Kano.
Witness said the angry youth attacked the sect members at various points during the procession, to disperse them, throwing stones at them. In some places, they were beaten up and injured with knives and machetes.
The situation was however brought under control and normalcy returned to the metropolis yesterday.