At least 10 people were killed after the Nigerian army fired live bullets and teargas to disperse a group of Shiite protesters on the second day of demonstration by the group in the capital city of Abuja on Monday, a Shiite cleric told CNN.
Violence broke out after hundreds of Shiite protesters threw stones at the soldiers and commuters at a checkpoint, as they marched into the city, eyewitnesses told CNN.
“We fled from our vehicle into the bush where we hid for three hours. From there, we could hear gunshots and see Shiite protesters taking their members who were shot away. There were also bodies lying on the roads,” Khalifa Bello said.
Another resident, Jude Faing, said vehicles were turned back amid the chaos as Shiite protesters dressed in symbolic black marched into the city causing traffic.
“People were shouting to everyone to go back, and as there was shootings between soldiers and Shiite members at the army checkpoint, so I ran back home,” Faing told CNN.
CNN has asked the Nigerian military for comment on the shooting claim but has not received a response.
The unrest comes after the military said three members of the Islamic group and two soldiers were injured following a clash with Shiite protesters on Saturday.
Army spokesman James Myam, in a statement Sunday, said the troops only shot at the protesters on Saturday to “extricate” themselves from the area after the clashes turned violent.
Myam alleged that members of the group attacked a military convoy traveling with ammunition and weapons on the outskirts of the city, forcing the soldiers to engage them.
Islamic Movement of Nigeria spokesman Ibrahim Musa told CNN at least 10 of its members were killed on Monday when they encountered a roadblock from the soldiers who opened fire at them.
“Our members were marching peacefully for three hours while observing the Arbaeen March as will be done by all Shiite members in Karbala in Iraq and other countries,” Musa said.
Shiite protesters are also demanding their leader’s freedom, he added.
Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in the military detention since his arrest in 2015, following a crackdown by the country’s security forces on members of the sect.
Isaac Abrak reported from Abuja and CNN’s Bukola Adebayo wrote from Lagos