Nigerian police have fired live ammunition and teargas at protesting Shia Muslims as large crowds gathered in the capital city Abuja Thursday to demand the release of ailing cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.
Witnesses saw policemen firing shots at hundreds of protesters who had gathered outside government buildings to demand the release of Zakzaky. Police also arrested at least a dozen people at the massive rally.
Protesters threw stones as police tried to disperse them. They were carrying banners showing pictures of the cleric as well as the people who lost their lives at the hands of government forces.
Similar protest rallies were held in the city of Kaduna, north of Abuja.
According to an eyewitness, who was talking to Press TV, four brothers were shot and wounded in Kaduna protest, although the figure may rise later.
The witness added that two of the four brothers were critically wounded, needing immediate orthopedic consultation.
On Tuesday, security forces killed two protesters, who were members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) headed by Zakzaky.
Fierce clashes erupted outside the National Assembly as protesters gathered there and then sought to enter the building to register a demand for the cleric’s release. At least 40 people were detained during the rally.
Zakzaky’s supporters also staged a rally on Wednesday in defiance of the brutal crackdown against them.
Sheikh Zakzaky lost his left eyesight in a 2015 raid by security forces that left more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons dead. His wife also sustained serious injuries.
In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.
According to human rights groups, Nigerian forces have killed at least 400 members of the IMN over the past four years.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), based in London, said earlier this week that the cleric’s health condition has further deteriorated since he was reportedly poisoned in prison.
The cleric’s son, Mohammad, told Press TV on Saturday that his father was in dire need of medical treatment, as “large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium have been found in his blood.” He said the authorities intended to murder his father since they were denying him urgent medication.
The IMN earlier this month said in a statement that the group’s leaders would hold Nigerian President Buhari Muhammadu responsible “if anything should happen to Zakzaky or his wife in detention.”