About a dozen Nigerian Shiites are reported to have been killed during clashes with police on Monday morning in the northern city of Kano, while they were observing an annual festival.
Some witnesses told AFP that ten bodies were picked up by the police while others say fifteen people died after police opened fire on the crowd and fired tear gas.
“They (the Shiites) wounded one of our officers, and our men opened fire because they were becoming violent,” a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were embarking on a procession by foot, as part of its annual Arbaeen Trek to neighbouring city of Kaduna, where the group has been banned.
The trek forms part of the Arbaeen Festival, which is the largest Shiite gathering in commemoration of the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein ibn Ali.
The clash is reported to have started around Tamburawa, on the outskirts of Kano city, when the police tried to stop the procession as the The Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
The police deployed heavily armed men to the area and blocked the major Kano- Zaria road, Nigerian local media reported.
The security officials were also reported to have detained the luggages of the Shiite group.
The Nigerian authorities are yet to comment on the issue.
Members of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) have been staging protests in the north of the country demanding the release of their spiritual leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Their protests are mostly met by repression from the police.
El-Zakzaky has been detained without trial since December last year after over 300 members of his group were killed by soldiers and himself partially paralyzed and blind in one eye.
Local and international human rights groups have condemned the killings and called for the prosecution of the soldiers involved.
The Kaduna government confirmed the killings and a panel formed to look into the matter recommended in August that the soldiers responsible be prosecuted and the Shiite group be disbanded.
The Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has since been banned yet they continue protesting. No soldier has been tried for the killings.