Local sources claim security forces opened fire on Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) supporters amid an unruly demonstration in Abuja on Monday afternoon (local time), July 22. Protesters had reportedly attempted to set fire to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs building; police attempted to disperse the crowds with live rounds as they descended on Eagle Square. Unconfirmed reports indicate at least two people were killed and several others wounded on Monday.
President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly convened a meeting with his security chiefs to address the incident as of Monday evening. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be expected in the affected area over the coming hours. Further clashes between protesters and security forces are possible.
IMN leader el-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 remained in detention.
IMN protests occur on a regular basis, especially in Abuja, Kaduna, and Kano states, despite a ban on the group's activities. Violent protests broke out in Abuja on October 29-30 2018, with IMN supporters demanding the release of Ibrahim el-Zakzaky. During the protests, several IMN supported were reportedly killed, with at least 400 others arrested by security forces. On July 9, at least two police officers were wounded by protesters who unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to the National Assembly building in Abuja. Another related protest was held on July 10.
Individuals in Abuja are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all protests due to the risk of violence, and adhere to any instructions issued by the local authorities.
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. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel to such areas.
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