US condemns Nigerian army attack on Shia Muslims

SHAFAQNA- The United States has expressed concern over a recent attack by Nigerian forces on a Muslim procession that led to the death of scores of people.

In a statement published on Friday, US State Department spokesman John Kirby condemned the deadly assault perpetrated by the Nigerian government forces earlier this week, calling the carnage a “disproportionate response” of the police in the violence.

Nearly 100 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) were killed on Monday, after the country’s forces fired live rounds and tear gas canisters at mourners during a peaceful march held ahead of the upcoming Arba’een mourning rituals, which mark 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Fierce clashes broke out when police tried to disperse thousands of people, including women and children, who were marching from Kano to Kaduna for the mourning rituals.

According to the IMN, a combined team of security and Kaduna State government personnel demolished the Fudiyya Islamic School at Zaria, which offers nursery, primary and secondary education.

The government forces also attacked the Husainiyya in Saminaka which was under construction, without any prior notice or court order, the IMN added.

It said that the state government was planning to clampdown on IMN members in the state and kill as many as possible.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the deaths of dozens of Nigerians during clashes between individuals participating in a Shia procession and the Nigerian Police Force in Kano State,” Kirby said in the statement.

He also called for “calm and restraint on all sides” and said anyone responsible for violating the law should be held accountable.

This photo taken on November 16, 2016 shows the body of a two-year old girl, Zainab, who was killed after Nigerian forces attacked Shia mourners in the northern city of Kano on November 14, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Last month, the government in Nigeria’s Kaduna state declared the IMN as an “unlawful society”, claiming that its processions were a danger to peace, and said anyone convicted of being a member of the movement could be incarcerated for up to seven years.

At least 20 people were killed and several others injured on October 12, when Nigerian forces opened fire on Muslim mourners commemorating Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PUBH).

Supporters of the IMN have been subjected to heavy-handed crackdown since last year, when the army attacked a religious ceremony in their stronghold city of Zaria in the north, claiming the lives of hundreds of people.

Picture taken on October 24, 2015, shows Shia Muslims taking part in a rally to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of the Third Shia Imam, Imam Hussein (PBUH), in the northern city of Kano, Nigeria.

In December 2015, Nigerian forces raided the house of the IMN’s leader, Sheikh Zakzaky, and arrested him after killing those trying to protect him, including one of the movement’s senior leaders and its spokesman.

The Sheikh himself was shot seven times during the attacks and blinded in one eye. He still remains in custody of the army.

The raid occurred a day after Nigerian soldiers attacked a group of Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him.

The Nigerian army killed 348 Muslims during the attack on the religious ceremony, according to a report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a non-profit organization based in London.

This is while the international community has so far failed to take measures to end the crackdown in the African country.


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