A newly outlawed Shiite Muslim group in northern Nigeria on Monday accused officials of using tear gas, clubs and sticks to round up members including women and children, as pressure grew on a minority group that the military has accused of trying to assassinate its army chief.
The Iranian-inspired Islamic Movement in Nigeria said eight members of one family were among those held in “illegal custody,” but it did not specify how many people had been detained in all.
Authorities in Kaduna state could not immediately be reached to comment. Africa’s most populous nation is almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims, most of them Sunni.
Monday’s statement was signed by Ibrahim Musa, the group’s spokesman, whose own arrest was ordered by Kaduna officials on Sunday. That order came two days after the state declared the group to be unlawful.
A Kaduna state commission of inquiry recently said the Islamic Movement in Nigeria was responsible for provoking an attack in December 2015 on its headquarters, during which the army gunned down more than 300 Shiites. The report said the violence began with a blockade that halted the convoy of Nigeria’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
Nigeria’s military has accused the Shiites of attempting to assassinate Buratai, a claim that human rights groups have called unbelievable.
Human Rights Watch has quoted witness accounts that soldiers started shooting at schoolchildren leaving a mosque an hour before Buratai’s convoy approached the roadblock, indicating the raid had been planned.
Ibraheem Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, was shot seven times during the attack. He has been in custody since December.
Nigeria’s military is often accused of massive human rights violations, including the deaths of thousands of people detained in connection with Boko Haram’s Islamic uprising in the northeast.