Peaceful protests yesterday spread to some northern states including Kaduna and Kano over the arrest of the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
At least three people were said to have been killed in Kaduna when police tried to disperse a procession of Shiite members who were protesting the arrest of their leader.
Sect members said some of their members were killed but the police disputed the claims.
Our correspondent gathered that the protest march started from the Layin Kosai area of Tudun Wada with the sect members demanding the release of their leader.
Witnesses said trouble however started when some members got to Tudun Nupawa near Enugu road met a convoy of Hilux vans carrying anti-riot policemen.
Business activities were grounded in Tudun Wada and Tudun Nupawa in Kaduna South LGA of the state, normally later returned.
The army, Operation Yaki security outfit and the civil defence quickly mobilized to the scene to contain the situation.
The Shi’ites in a statement by the president of its media forum, Ibrahim Musa, accused the Mobile Police Unit (MOPOL) of attacking a peaceful protest.
“The police killed three people on the spot, with many receiving gunshot injuries.
As usual with such protest conducted by the Muslim brothers, it started peacefully from Layin kosai area of Tudun Wada Kaduna, however when it reached Tudun Nupawa near Enugu road, the MOPOL, in about five vehicles, opened fire on the protesters.
“The main aim and slogan of the protesters was: “Release Sheikh Zakzaky, Enough is Enough” and the protest was dispersed by the police by their sporadic shootings.
“However, about nine police vehicles moved to Tudun wada where the Markaz (Islamic Centre) of the Muslim brothers is situated and opened fire there, as if in continuation of what the army started in Zaria over the weekend. Reports reaching us said many were killed or wounded there also”, he said.
In Kano, thousands of the Shi’ite members including women and children began a peaceful protest from the central mosque early yesterday, marching through Kano Central to the Kantin-Kwari market, Kofar-Mata, Ibrahim Taiwo Road and Fagge Juma’at mosque and ended the protest at the Bata roundabout around 1pm. Some protesters carried placards which read: Free Zakzaky now, Soldiers should stop killing our people, No to brutality and No one can intimidate us, among others.
Members of the sect have been protesting in Kano since Sunday when the military clashed with members of the sect in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The spokesperson of the sect in Kano, Muhammad Saqafah, told Daily Trust that the procession was in protest against the recent arrest of their leader by military.
“We will continue protesting until government releases him. His arrest was unlawful and government must release him with immediate effect”, he said.
“Protests were held in Bauchi, Gombe, Kano and Gusau, and they all ended peacefully, because no police were ordered to shoot the protesters, the question is who are those in authority that are bent on creating chaos in Kaduna through such brutal attacks on ordinary unarmed people?” he asked.
Police spokesman, DSP Zubairu Abubakar, who confirmed the incident said the Tudun Wada police station was attacked, but denied any casualty.
“Some people who we have not identified yet but believed to be Shi’ite members attacked the Tudun Wada police station in their hundreds. No casualty was recorded on both sides so I do not know where they got their figures from, they were not in a peaceful protect because came directly towards the station and attacked and we used non-lethal weapons to bring sanity in the area”, he said.
He noted that calm had returned to the area and urged residents to go about their lawful business. He said to the best of his knowledge, no policeman used live bullets on the procession because they were under strict instruction not to open fire on the protesters.
“They tried to attack a police station, so our men moved there to ensure peace. Our men used tear gas to disperse the people”, he added. Similar protests were held in Kebbi, Bauchi and Nassarawa States, according to the protest leader in Kano, Malam Imamu Kurna.
“We had concurrent processions in Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Kebbi and other states,” he said. “We did not face any intimidation from security forces in Kano, and even in other states, apart from Kaduna, we did not receive any assault on our members. We are doing this based on orders from our leaders”, he added.