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‘I’m holding my death certificate’

International | Shiite Muslims fear extermination in Nigeria
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 11/06/18, 03:15 pm

ABUJA, Nigeria—Nigerian security forces last week shot and killed 42 members of a Shiite Islamic movement during a violent crackdown on protests in the nation’s capital. The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) staged a religious procession to coincide with a three-day protest demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky.

Tensions escalated in 2015 when security forces killed more than 300 Shiites in an attack on the group’s headquarters in Kaduna state, arresting Zakzaky, who remains in police custody.

Half of Nigeria’s population is Muslim, and a majority identifies as Sunni. The Shiite minority gained ground in Nigeria after the 1979 revolution in Iran, mostly led by Shiites.

The Nigerian sect maintains strong ties with Iran, which is considered the international protector of Shiites, but has denied it receives any funding from Iran and maintains its protests are nonviolent. Iran protested last week’s killings and demanded compensation for the victims. Similar sectarian disagreements have had deadly results in Syria, where conflict between the Sunni and Shiite forces continues to drive the civil war there.

On Oct. 27, police blocked the Kubwa expressway in Abuja and killed at least three IMN demonstrators. A few days later, the army blocked traffic and opened fire on some of the protesters along an expressway on the city’s outskirts. The following day, police shot at demonstrators in the city center.

Ibrahim Musa, an IMN spokesman, confirmed the death toll to Reuters, as the group began mass burials for some of the dead. During the burial ceremony, Ibrahim Ganawa, an IMN youth leader, said his group feels threatened in the country: “I, as a Shiite today, I’m carrying my death certificate.”

In a brief statement on Facebook, the Nigerian Army said IMN attacked on-duty forces on Oct. 29. Authorities arrested about 400 members of the Shiite group and arraigned at least 130 of them last week.

Amnesty International said about 122 others were injured in the unrest.

“This pattern clearly shows soldiers and police approached IMN processions not to restore public order, but to kill,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International’s director in Nigeria. He warned that the continuously uninvestigated rights violations would fuel “dangerous disdain” for human life in the country.

SBM Intelligence, a Lagos state-based intelligence analysis group, noted in a statement that IMN demonstrators have remained disciplined and mostly peaceful since the first widespread government crackdown in 2015.

“Should IMN decide to take up arms against the state, the discipline it has exhibited so far suggests that it will be an effective subversive force,” the group said, warning that there is a chance the crackdown could push younger members of the group into “discarding the pacifist approach and opting for the path of violent retribution.”

Associated Press Associated Press Former al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow

Former al-Shabaab leader seeks presidency

The former second-in-command of the Somali-based extremist group al-Shabaab is running for president in the country’s autonomous South West state.

Mukhtar Robow announced his candidacy last month, calling it a response to requests from people in the region. “I have accepted the requests and, if God wills, we will win and peace will prevail,” he said.

Robow, who was the target of a $5 million U.S. bounty, trained in Afghanistan and served as spokesman for the al-Qaeda-linked group but fell out with the group’s leaders in 2012 over what he called ideological differences.

He surrendered last year to the Somali government. To show his disagreement with al-Shabaab, Robow donated blood after a deadly truck bombing by the group in October 2017 killed more than 500 people. It was the worst terror attack in the country’s history.

The Somali Interior Ministry this month rejected Robow’s bid, noting he received a presidential pardon and still faces some international sanctions. But it’s unclear if the national government can stop him from running for president of the autonomous region, and he has garnered support from some Somalis who believe he could restore peace to the country.

“He is a man who knows about the group’s secrets: their sources of money, the way they recruit fighters, and the tricks they use,” Mohamed Farah Ali, a former militant commander, told Voice of America. “Therefore, I think being a leader would turn the tide against al-Shabaab fighters, especially in the South West region.”

The South West state’s election is slated for Nov. 17. —O.O.

Asia Bibi trapped in Pakistan

Although acquitted of blasphemy charges last week by the Pakistani Supreme Court, Asia Bibi still fears for her life and remains confined to a prison that is serving as a safe house, CNN reported Monday.

Her husband, Ashiq Masih, pleaded for asylum for his family and called on British, Canadian, and U.S. leaders for help, according to the BBC. Masih told German broadcaster DW that the deal the Pakistani government made with protesters from the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik “sent a shiver down my spine.”

That deal, struck to end days of protests against Bibi’s acquittal, included allowing the Supreme Court to review its own decision, putting Bibi on an “exit control” list preventing her from leaving Pakistan, and releasing all arrested protesters without charges.

William Stark of International Christian Concern said that preventing Bibi from leaving “opens up opportunity for her to be assassinated.” —Julia A. Seymour

Sudan targets Christian converts

The Sudanese intelligence service this month detained and abused nine Christians, including a priest who faced apostasy charges, a rights group said.

The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies said the National Intelligence Security Services in the state of South Darfur arrested the Christians from the town of Nyala on Oct. 13. The group reported the agency released eight of the Christians who denied their faith after facing torture that included beatings with hoses.

The intelligence agency also charged the priest with apostasy after he refused to recant and return to Islam. Agents have increasingly targeted Christian churches as the country cracks down on religious freedom. The human rights group said it “remains concerned about the crime of apostasy and the provision of the death penalty as punishment for those found guilty of apostasy.” —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Tue, 11/06/2018 10:20 pm

    Lord have mercy on Asia and the many others worldwide who face the prospect of death at the hands of evil-inspired individuals and mobs.