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Many killed in Nigerian protests for release of Shia leader

By Sam Olukoya Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria – Security was high in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Tuesday, a day after several people were killed in clashes between police and the country’s main Shia group.

A police officer and a reporter for the Channels television network were among those killed in the clashes in the capital, Abuja, on Monday, police said.

At least 11 members of the Shia group were killed by police gunfire, said Ibrahim Musa, spokesman for the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

Police spokesman Frank Mba blamed the Shias for the deaths. He said “heavily armed protesters defying all sense of decency violently attacked innocent citizens and police personnel on duty.” He said an additional two police officers were injured.

This is the most recent violence in a series of protests in which the Shias are urging the government to release their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, who has been in jail without trial since 2015 and is reported to be in failing health.

Last week the Shia group said four of its members were shot dead during protests in Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna.

Zakzaky, his wife and many Shias were arrested following a military raid on the group’s headquarters in the northern city of Zaria.

More than 300 Shias were killed during the military operation, according to officials, but the Shias claim that more than 1,000 were killed.

Nigeria’s Shias say they are being persecuted by the country’s larger Muslim group, the Sunnis.

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