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FG bans Shiite group after deadly clashes with police

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Soldiers aboard a truck patrol during a violent protest by Shiite Muslims demanding the release of their detained leader Ibrahim Zakzaky on July 23, 2019 in Abuja

Nigeria’s presidency on Sunday said the government was banning a Shiite group after a spate of deadly clashes at protests in the capital.

Tensions have risen between the authorities and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) as demonstrations in Abuja to free pro-Iranian leader Ibrahim Zakzaky have descended into violence.

At least six protesters, a trainee journalist and a senior police officer were killed on Monday during the latest clashes.

Punch newspaper reported on Saturday the government had secured a court order allowing it to prohibit the group’s activities as “terrorism and illegality”.

“Proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shiites in the country from practicing their religion, instead it was to discourage wanton violence, murder and wilful destruction of public and private property,” the presidency said in a statement.

“The banned organisation was taken over by extremists who didn’t believe in peaceful protests and instead employed violence and arson, driving fear and undermining the rights of others and constituted authority.”

“The government had to act before the situation goes out of control,” it said.

The authorities still need to publish the court order in the state gazette and two newspapers for it to come into force, Punch said.

The IMN, which emerged as a student movement in the late 1970s, was inspired by the Islamic revolution in Iran, and has close ties in the Shiite Islamic country.

The sect is often treated with hostility in Nigeria, especially in the predominantly Sunni Muslim north of the country, where religious elites are allied with Saudi Arabia.

Zakzaky was detained in December 2015 after violence during a religious procession. Rights groups say some 350 mostly unarmed Shiite marchers were killed by the Nigerian army.

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