Nigerian police have denied killing any members of a banned Shiite Muslim group during a gathering this week in the capital, Abuja.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria said police on Tuesday shot and killed eight of its members as they marked the religious ritual of Arbaeen.

The Abuja police command denied the allegation in a statement Wednesday, saying operatives intervened during the Islamic Movement of Nigeria procession to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

The command said members of the IMN attacked security officers before officers shot tear gas into the air, arrested 57 of them, and seized petrol bombs and bags of stones.

An Abuja command spokesperson couldn’t be reached for a comment, but national police spokesperson Frank Mba backed the command’s statement on the matter.

Statement approved

“That statement is comprehensive enough, and it answers all questions. I am okay with that statement,” Mba said.

The IMN rejected claims by the police that its members attacked officers, however, and said it would file a lawsuit against authorities.

Spokesperson Abdullahi Muhammed Musa said it was IMN members who were attacked at the group’s procession to mark the religious ritual.

‘We have videos’

He said at least eight people were shot, while dozens of people scampering to safety were injured.

“Armed police and soldiers come out and attack unarmed, innocent citizens that are carrying out their religious activities, which is their constitutional right, but they’re denying that they didn’t kill anybody,” Musa said. “We have videos, we have people around that you can come and investigate.”

Muhammad Rufai was at the procession Tuesday. He said he heard gunshots and saw bodies soon after.

“We saw these joint taskforce vehicles. I think they’re up to 20-something,” Rufai said. “They started shooting tear gas and bullets immediately, as at that time, I saw three persons that they shot down.”

The Shiite minority Muslim group in Nigeria has long complained of discrimination and repression.

IMN banned in 2019

Authorities banned the IMN in 2019 following violent clashes with security during protests to demand the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky.

Zakzaky and his wife had been detained since 2015 after a clash in which the army killed an estimated 350 Shiites.

In July, a Nigerian court acquitted the IMN leader of all criminal charges, and Zakzaky and his wife were released from prison.

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