Nigeria: Shiites continue protest over el-Zakzaky detention

ABUJA Nigerian police fired guns and tear gas in a Thursday clash with a protesting group of Shiites in the capital Abuja, witnesses said, just two days after a peaceful protest turned violent just outside the parliament.

Witnesses saw policemen fired their weapons in an effort to disperse hundreds who gathered outside government buildings to demand the release of their leader Ibraheem el-Zakzaky, who has been in detention since 2015.

One witness said it did not appear the police were aiming at protesters, but they appeared to be firing live rounds.

The confrontation comes two days after clashes with police left at least two dead and 40 protesters in police custody.

Protesters ran and threw stones as police tried to disperse the crowds. A witness saw police arrest at least a dozen protesters.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), a group that represents Nigeria’s minority Shiites, said it will continue protesting until they secure the release of el-Zakzaky, who founded the IMN in the early 1980s.

On Tuesday, Nigeria’s National Assembly went into lockdown after gunshots erupted during a violent confrontation between the sides. Each side blamed the other for the gunfire.

A presidential spokesperson said el-Zakzaky, who has been at loggerheads with the government at state and federal levels for years, was being held for his own good.

The police said some IMN members dispossessed an officer of his weapon during Tuesday’s protests, leading to five policemen being shot and two protesters being killed.

The new wave of protests have also spread to the commercial capital of Lagos, almost 800km south of Abuja.