LAGOS: At least 115 supporters of a pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim group were arrested in the Nigerian capital on Monday during the latest protest to demand the release of their detained leader, a police spokesman said.
Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, head of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has been in government custody since troops clashed with his followers in the northern city of Zaria in December 2015, despite court orders that he should be freed.
His supporters have held a series of protests to demand his release and on Monday clashed with police in Abuja during a march.
A video of the face-off emerged on social media, showing police dispersing protesters with tear gas and water cannon.
“One hundred and fifteen members of the sect were arrested at the scene by police operatives,” Abuja police spokesman Anjuguri Manzah said in a statement.
He said the IMN supporters “went on the rampage”, attacking innocent citizens, disrupting business activities, obstructing traffic and destroying government and police vehicles.
Manzah said 22 police personnel were injured during the protest, while catapults, iron bars and stones were recovered from the suspects.
IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa told AFP police fired teargas, water cannon and live bullets to break up the week-long protest, injuring 30 and arresting around 200.
“Thirty people were injured, one of them critically, who sustained a shattered skull. So far from our records, 200 others were arrested,” he said, vowing to continue the demonstrations until their leader was freed.
“Clampdowns by the police and security agents will not deter us from pursuing our legal demand for the release of Ibrahim Zakzaky. We will continue with these activities until our demand is met by the government, which is simple: release Zakzaky from detention.”
Zakzaky has been at loggerheads with Nigeria’s secular authorities for years because of his call for an Islamic revolution.
Rights groups have accused Nigerian troops of killing more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves during the 2015 confrontation, a charge they deny.