By Olawale Ajimotokan and Udora Orizu in Abuja
Six members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and a policeman were feared killed during a violent march by the group in Abuja on Monday afternoon. A journalist was also hit by a stray bullet.
The religious sect, known as Shiites, clashed with the security men after they were intercepted at the Eagle Square.
An eye witness described a scene of bedlam that forced many pedestrians to scamper for safety during the violence, where policemen fired live ammunition at the Islamists.
This latest violence occurred about two weeks after a policeman was reportedly killed and several people injured when the Shiites invaded the National Assembly.
For many hours Monday morning, and following a heavy rainfall, armed soldiers mounted road blocks at the AYA Junction of Abuja, apparently to foil the Shiite group from pouring into the city centre.
The lockdown caused a traffic snarl and led to many motorists spending several hours in traffic.
Monday’s protest started at about 1p.m. at NICON junction in Maitama district, when the Shiite procession began heading towards the Three Arms Zone along Ahmadu Bello Way.
But they were confronted by the Police at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs junction at the Eagle Square.
Soon as violence escalated, they set ablaze a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ambulance and a Bay opposite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A policeman, who was hit on the head by a rock, was said to have died.
After burning the FEMA Bay, the hardened protesters marched toward the National Assembly, but were stopped by the Police, who opened fire at the sect members at the Head of Service junction.
This forced many of them to beat a retreat and scamper into different directions. Six of them were also fatally shot.
Many people around the scene ran for their lives because the sporadic shooting by the Police.
The spokesman of Shiite, Abdulahi Musa, in a phone call, confirmed the killing of six members of the sect during the violence.
He also said the Police arrested many of their members, who were taken to unknown destination in a truck.
He accused the police of fomenting trouble by attacking them while they were on a procession to demand for the release of their spiritual leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El zakzaky, and other members.
Musa categorically refuted insinuation that the Shiites attacked the Police with arms and also burnt the NEMA facilities at Eagle Square.
“We have six dead bodies with us now, and police have taken a full truck load of our injured members. We cannot confirm the total number of those who were killed for now.
“It is not true that our members burnt NEMA Ambulance, I think those people that did it are police officers on plain clothes. We didn’t shoot at anybody as has been claimed, it was the Police that opened fire on our members.
“We are not going back on the demand for the release of our leaders. If you don’t know, Sheikh El’zakzaky has become very infirm. They are poisoning him and have refused to release him, after the court granted him bail”. Musa said.
Police are yet to issue a statement on the incident.