Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, Ibrahim Musa, Shiites
Members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a Shia group, demand the release of the group’s leader, Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky, who was arrested on December 14, 2015. | AP/Muhammed Giginyu

Nigerian troops have surrounded a gathering of Shi’a Muslims in Kaduna, with worshippers trapped inside, reports say.

This possible genocidal crackdown comes days after the Kaduna State government banned the biggest Shi’ite sect in Nigeria, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. The ban has been condemned by the sect and activists as a violation of the fundamental human rights of the sect, a religious minority in Nigeria.

The Muslim worshippers gathered to commemorate historical events associated with the Islamic month of Muharram that are particularly significant in the Shi’ite calendar, UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, said in a statement on Tuesday, October 11, 2016.

“Shortly before the Kaduna Markaz mosque on Zango Road was encircled by armoured military vehicles carrying heavily armed soldiers and also an ambulance were among a convoy of 18 military vehicles seen nearby,” the group said.

It called on the Nigerian government to withdraw the soldiers and allow the worshippers to continue to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of assembly and worship.

According to an eye-witness who spoke with Premium Times, that the standoff was at the residence of a senior Shi’a leader, Muhtar Sahabi, and not a Mosque.

He said dozens of armed soldiers and mobile police officers surrounded the compound and were waiting for those gathered inside to leave.

He said some women and children who started coming out were sent back by the soldiers.

“It appears they want to make arrests following the recent ban,” the source said.

The confrontation follows a spate of arrests over recent days of members of the Shi’a sect, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, after a state-wide ban on Friday, proscribing membership of the movement.

“As was feared, the new law appears to be being used as an attempt to prevent the movement’s supporters from attending ceremonies commemorating the month of Muharram,” IHRC said.

The military activity is reminiscent of the run-up to the massacre last December of hundreds of supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria by the army and the arrest of its leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

Mr. Zakzaky remains in government custody.

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