Nigerian forces open fire at Shia mourners taking part in Ashura processions, killing at least nine people in the cities of Kaduna and Funtua, Press TV correspondent from the capital Abuja reports.
The killings on Wednesday came as mourners defied a state ban, holding processions in several cities to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (Peace Be Upon Him), the third Shia Imam.
Tensions were already running high between the regime and Nigeria’s Shia Muslims who have been demanding the release of prominent cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky from prison.
Heavily-armed troops in a convoy of 18 armored vehicles surrounded a gathering of mourners in Kaduna as an ambulance waited nearby, UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said in a statement.
A local newspaper said the standoff was at the residence of senior Shia leader Muhtar Sahabi. It said armed soldiers and mobile police officers surrounded the compound and were waiting for those gathered inside to leave.
According to the Press TV correspondent, troops fired tear gas and live bullets at mourners in Funtua and Kaduna.
The confrontations follow a spate of arrests over recent days of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), the mainstream Shia group led by Sheikh Zakzaky.
The government has imposed a ban to prevent the movement’s supporters from attending ceremonies commemorating the month of Muharram during which Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his 72 companions were martyred 14 centuries ago.
The killings on Wednesday revive the memory of the run-up to the massacre last December of hundreds of IMN supporters by the army and the arrest of Sheikh Zakzaky.