Nigerian military forces fired on Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) protesters in Abuja on Monday, October 29. According to unconfirmed reports, at least 16 protesters were killed in the incident, including four people who were killed when a vehicle rammed a crowd while attempting to flee the scene of a protest. The demonstrators, demanding the release of IMN leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, reportedly threw rocks at soldiers in the Kugbo area, who responded by firing live ammunition; the number of casualties was not immediately reported. According to reports, the Abuja-Keffi Expressway was also obstructed on Monday due to clashes between protesters and police on the route between the Karu and Nyanya areas, which left over a dozen people dead; cars were reportedly set on fire during the demonstration and clashes.
Similar protests are possible in Abuja over the coming days. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be expected near protest sites. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
IMN protests occur on a regular basis, especially in Abuja, Kaduna, and Kano states, despite a ban on the group's activities. Such protests have occasionally led to violent clashes between protesters and police, as well as arrests.
Zakzaky, a prominent Shi'a cleric, was arrested in December 2015 when soldiers raided his home in Zaria (Kaduna state), killing a number of IMN followers in the process. The Nigerian Federal High Court ordered Zakzaky's release in December 2016, but he has nevertheless remained in detention.
Individuals in Abuja are advised to avoid all protests due to the risk of associated violence, plan alternative routes, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities. In general, the security environment in Nigeria is complex and is particularly challenging in the northeast and extreme south of the country due to the presence of armed groups, high crime rates, and the risk of kidnapping.
Some Western governments consequently advise against travel to certain areas of the northeast (e.g. states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, and Jigawa as well as parts of Kano and Adamawa states) and the southern Niger Delta region (e.g. states of Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers). Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel to these areas.
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