Fierce clashes have erupted for the second consecutive day between Nigerian police and hundreds of Shia protesters demanding the release of top Shia cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
The latest clashes broke out after police fired teargas at members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and activists from several other civil society groups in Wuse Market area of Abuja at midday on Tuesday.
Media reports said scores of protesters were also detained by armed police wearing bulletproof vests and gas masks during the clashes.
“We’ve come under serious attack today,” said Deji Adeyanju of Concerned Nigerians, a civil society group involved in the demonstration.
“The more they attack the more (we) come out,” Deji said, adding, “We want to defy tyranny and a dictatorship.”
Police also used live ammunition as they forcefully dispersed angry protesters in Abuja on Monday. Organizers said at least one demonstrator had been killed and several others injured.
According to local media, at least 115 protesters were also detained by Nigerian security forces at the massive protest rally.
The protests, which started from the Unity Fountain, created tension in the capital city as the protesters were seen marching in their large numbers, chanting slogans and calling for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky.
A number of videos uploaded on social media showed wreaths of tear gas enveloping Abuja’s streets in the upmarket Maitama district, near the landmark Transcorp Hilton Hotel. Other videos showed protesters pelting an armored police vehicle with rocks before it sped away, and people fleeing the area.
Earlier this year, at least two young students were killed by security forces during protests for Sheikh Zakzaky’s release in Kaduna, which broke out on January 7.
The violent repression of Shia Muslims has drawn accusations that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is abusing human rights.
Sheikh Zakzaky has been detained without trial for over two years. The IMN says Zakzaky must be freed after a court ruled his detention without charge illegal.
The top Shia cleric lost his left eyesight in the raid, which was carried out by the Nigerian army on his residence in the northern town of Zaria in December 2015.
During the raid, Sheikh Zakzaky’s wife sustained serious wounds too and more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons were killed. The cleric, his wife, and a large number of his followers have since been in custody.
A judicial inquiry after the 2015 brutal raid concluded that the military had killed 347 IMN members in Zaria. Soldiers buried the bodies in mass graves.
Several international organizations and human rights groups have denounced “the Zaria massacre.”