Nigerian forces have arrested the top Shia cleric, Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, after carrying out a deadly raid on his private residence in the country’s northern region, rights activists say.
The activists and local residents said that a large number of soldiers torched and destroyed several parts of al-Zakzaky’s house before arresting the cleric on Sunday. The army eventually overtook the home of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, killing many people.
Some reports say the fate of al-Zakzaky and his wife remains unknown after the attack.
Sources said that several people were killed or injured when the Nigerian government forces opened fire on local residents who were attempting to protect the cleric.
The second in command to the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Muhammad Turi, and the group’s spokesman, Ibrahim Usman, are reported to be among the dead.
According to the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, the troops have also rounded up several peace activists who were attending a peace march against the army’s brutality.
The developments followed the Saturday violence between troops and Shia Muslims in the country’s city of Zaria, Kaduna State, in which at least 15 people were killed and many more injured.
Reports said soldiers opened fire on the people attending a ceremony in Hussainiyyah Baqeeyatullah, a religious center. The Shias had reportedly stopped the convoy of the Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai as the top Shia cleric was planning a speech in the religious center.
Authorities accuse the Shia cleric of trying to assassinate the Nigerian army chief, a charge that he has vehemently denied.
Al-Zakzaky told Press TV in an interview from his residence that the military attacks are unjustified, adding that the government has “framed a kind of lies.”
“They came to my house and then there was shooting constantly,” he said.
The cleric said the Nigerian troops are “bent on” continuing their attacks which, he said, have left about 30 people dead.
“Only Allah can protect us,” said al-Zakzaky.
Human rights groups and activists have strongly denounced the Nigerian government of violating religious and social freedoms by attacking peaceful Shia gatherings.
Nigerian army had also targeted Shias in August last year as people were holding a demonstration to condemn Israeli attacks on the Palestinians.
Shias in Nigeria have also been targeted by the Takfiri miltiant group, Boko Haram.
More than 20 people were killed on November 27 in a Boko Haram bomb attack targeting Nigerian Shia Muslims during an annual religious procession in the northern state of Kano.