Nigerian government troops have carried out a raid on the private residence of a top Shia cleric in the country’s northern regions.
According to reports, the soldiers opened fire on local residents who were trying to protect the cleric , Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, on Saturday.
The army’s incursion followed the eruption of clashes between troops and Shia Muslims in the country’s city of Zaria, Kaduna State, in which at least 15 people were killed and many more injured.
Based on eyewitness reports, the clashes broke after the troops opened fire on the people in Hussainiyyah Baqeeyatullah, a religious center belonging to the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
The government troops claim Zakzaky’s followers had stopped the convoy of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai before the cleric was to give a speech.
Zakzaky’s followers have denied all such allegations, saying the attack was pre-planned and unprovoked.
During a phone conversation with Press TV, one of Zakzaky’s students, Nasir Tsafe Umar, confirmed that the attacks were unprovoked and the troops first surrounded the Hussainiyyah, then moved on to surround the cleric’s house and opened fire on those who were trying to protect Zakzaky.
Shias in Zaria, one of the major Shia-dominated cities of Nigeria, have become angry over the past weeks at a surge in attacks on the members of their community, demanding that the government in Abuja do more to protect the religious gatherings of the Shias in the country.