Nigerian Shiites say army plans attacks on holy day
KADUNA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's army is planning attacks on Shiite processions scheduled Nov. 20, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria said Tuesday as the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission asked Nigeria's president to ensure their protection.
Nigeria's military did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday evening.
The Nigerian army gunned down and killed some 300 Shiites in December and buried them secretly in a mass grave, according to an independent government-appointed committee into the killings in northern Zaria city. One soldier was killed. The Shiites say more than 1,000 were killed. Dozens remain in illegal military detention including leader Ibraheem Zakzaky, who was shot seven times and lost one eye.
Nigeria's army accused the Shiites of trying to assassinate the country's army chief — a claim human rights groups call unbelievable.
On Tuesday, Shiite spokesman Ibrahim Musa said Tuesday's appeal from the Islamic Human Rights Commission to President Muhammadu Buhari was based on reports from military intelligence officers privy to alleged plans to attack processions and burn members' businesses and homes.
Shiites have antagonized other Nigerians by forcefully blocking main roads with processions that draw hundreds of thousands. Nigeria's 170 million people are equally divided between Christians and mainly Sunni Muslims. Zakzaky is believed to have about 5 million followers.
The group has been attacked in the past. In 2014, soldiers opened fire on a procession, killing 34 people including three of Zakzaky's sons.
Last month, the Shiite movement was outlawed in its home state of Kaduna, a move analysts warn could spark another Islamic uprising.
The Shiites insist they are peaceful and note that suicide bombers of Boko Haram Islamic extremist group attacked a procession last year, killing several people.
Boko Haram emerged as a much more radical and violent group after a military attack on its headquarters in northeast Maiduguri city in 2009 killed about 700 people.