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We are not afraid to die, Shiites tell Kaduna govt

Hundreds of members of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) on Saturday, defied the ban place on them by the Kaduna State  and  staged a protest in the  state capital.

Members of the Islam sect marched through the town demanding the release of their spiritual leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and boasting they were not afraid of death, apparently referring to the recent ordeal they suffered at the hands of military.

“We are not afraid of anybody. All we are asking is for the government to release our leader. I am not afraid of death,” one of the protesters, a female, who did not give her name said, echoing the mood of other protesters.

During the protests, members of the sect, who chanted and sang the praise of their leader, insisted they were not deterred by the treatment meted out to them and would continue to demand the release of their leader and pursue their religious belief.

In a similar report by the Premium Times, the protesters were said to have closed down the popular Ahmadu Bello way causing heavy traffic on the road.

The protesters, it was said, passed through the busy Gumi market, singing the praise of Mr El-Zakzaky and calling on the government to release him from detention.

“We are not terrorists. We are Nigerians. Free our leader, free El-Zakzaky,” they said.

Aftermath the deadly confrontation between the Shiites and military, leader of the sect, El-Zakzaky, was arrested and detained in December without trial by the government. Over 300 of his followers were reportedly killed in a military operation against the sect in Kaduna.

The clampdown by the military was condemned by rights groups with many of them calling for investigation and sanctioning of the soldiers involved in the killings.

But the Nigerian Army, in its defence, had claimed that members of the sect had planned to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, who was returning from  an official engagement. The military claimed it acted in self-defence, but the Shiites had continued to deny the claim that it was the aggressor in the incident.

A panel of inquiry set up by the Kaduna State government confirmed that many Shiites were indeed killed, recommending that the soldiers implicated in the incident, especially those who gave the order for the killing  be prosecuted.

In addition, the panel recommended that IMN be banned. The Kaduna government in carrying out the recommendation has  banned Shiites in the state.

The police, who were on hand to ensure that the protest did not degenerated into chaos, did not disrupt the march.