Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) clashed on Wednesday with the Police in Kaduna as they protested the continued detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and Zeenat, his wife. Zakzaky and his wife have been in detention since December 2015 following a clash between his members and the Nigerian army in Zaria, Kaduna state.
The IMN members, also known as Shiites, stormed the busy Ahmadu Bello way and Lagos street roundabout in the heart of Kaduna, with mostly women and children, carrying placards with different inscriptions and demanded the immediate release of their leader.
Commercial activities in the city centre were grounded as traders and shop owners closed their shops and offices for fear of any outbreak of violence, with vehicular movement through the area also disrupted as they took over the roads, forcing motorists to take alternative routes.
However, violence broke out when the Police and other security operatives were deployed to the area to disperse them. The Police were alleged to have fired teargas on the protesters, forcing the Shiites to fight back and two Policemen were reportedly injured during the fracas, while some of the protesting Shiites were arrested by the Police.
Aliyu Muktar, Spokesman of the Kaduna State Police Command, said two Policemen sustained various degrees of injuries and were taken to the hospital.
“The Shiites in their usual procession came with many women and children and blocked the major road in the city and denying other citizens their right to use the road.
“But this time around, they came fully armed. Two of our men were critically injured and they are now receiving treatment at a hospital here in Kaduna. But I don’t know if there is any causality on their own part.
“As I speak with you, we have been able to disperse them and brought the situation under control. The police will not condone any form of lawlessness in the state,” he said.
However, Ibrahim Musa, Spokesman of the IMN, dismissed allegations that the Shi’ites were armed. He said many Shiites were injured by the Police who swooped on them while having their “peaceful” protest.
“It is actually not a clash. We were on our peaceful free Zakzaky protest today from Leventis roundabout to Oriapkpata, where the Police fired at us, injuring many with gunshots.
“They also arrested many, though we’re yet to have any specific figure. We condemn what the Police did to us, firing at a peaceful protest as if we are not in a democratic dispensation. This will not deter us from seeking the freedom of our leader” he stated.