Nigerian troops have surrounded a gathering of Shi’a Muslims in Kaduna, with worshipers trapped inside, according to reports.
That’s frightening news. The last time men of the Nigerian Army confronted the Shiites in Kaduna last December, more than 300 people were murdered (including women and children). And while nothing has been done to bring the perpetrators of the mass murder to book, the Kaduna government last week proscribed the group.
According to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in a statement on Tuesday, the Shiites were gathered to commemorate historical events associated with the Islamic month of Muharram. It is a significant religious ceremony for the group.
“Shortly before the Kaduna Markaz mosque on Zango Road was encircled by armoured military vehicles carrying heavily armed soldiers and also an ambulance were among a convoy of 18 military vehicles seen nearby,” the group said.
It called on the Nigerian government to withdraw the soldiers and allow the worshipers to continue to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of assembly and worship.
The gathering is being held at the residence of a senior Shi’a leader, Muhtar Sahabi, and not a Mosque, according to the report.
A witness says that it appears the dozens of soldiers laying wait, want to arrest the sect members thus giving effect to the recent ban.
The Human Rights Watch says it believes that the recent ban on the sect’s activities by the Kaduna government was done in order to prevent the movement’s supporters from attending ceremonies commemorating the month of Muharram.
The Nigerian government has been detaining the leader of the sect, Ibrahim Elzakzxaky since last December in contravention of the constitution and his rights.