Clashes between police and a pro-Iranian Nigerian Shiite group protesting against Israel's incursion into Gaza left one person dead and several injured on Thursday in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, AFP learnt from both sides.
Hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) took to the streets of the city on Thursday, carrying Palestinian flags and mannequins representing dead children, in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people and denouncing Israel in the war that has pitted it against Hamas since 7 October.
Footage seen by AFP showed armed police throwing tear gas and firing into the air to disperse the demonstrators, who retaliated by throwing stones at the police.
"The police opened fire on our peaceful demonstration in solidarity with Palestine, killing one of our members and injuring several others," IMN spokesperson Aliyu Tirmizi told AFP.
"We were simply exercising our freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Constitution, and we were not harming anyone, it was not a provocation", added Mr Tirmizi.
A Kaduna police spokesman confirmed the death, but blamed it on IMN protesters, whom he accused of being armed.
"One person was killed, but he was not one of the demonstrators. He was a chicken seller who was standing near the police when the armed demonstrators killed him," said Mansur Hassan, spokesman for the Kaduna police."Any demonstration by the IMN is illegal because the group is banned by the government", added Mr Hassan.
The IMN, inspired by the Islamic Revolution in Iran at the end of the 1970s, is still close to Tehran and meets with great hostility in Nigeria, where the Sunni Muslim elite makes no secret of its affinities with Saudi Arabia.
The movement was banned by the Nigerian authorities in 2019. Its demonstrations have often been organised in Abuja, particularly following the arrest of their religious leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, who was detained with his wife between 2015 and 2021, after violence broke out during a religious procession in Zaria (north) that left around 350 people dead.The north of Nigeria is predominantly Muslim, while the south is mainly Christian.