Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, members, otherwise known as Shi’ites, on Tuesday embarked on its much-trumpeted Ashura mourning procession in Abuja on Tuesday morning.
The march came against the backdrop of a police order telling the group not to dare the procession as it would be treated as an act of terrorism.
In Iraq, a stampede killed dozens of pilgrims in the country’s holy city of Karbala as the Shiite Muslims marked one of the most solemn events in their calendar, reports said.
The Washinton Post reports that at least 36 people were killed and more than 100 injured, some of them critically, in the Ashura commemorations, according to a spokesman for the Health Ministry.
The Post’s report reads, “Hundreds of thousands of Shiites had gathered in Karbala to mark the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad who was killed in battle in the 7th century, an event that cemented the schism between the Islamic faith’s Sunni and Shiite sects.
“The stampede occurred toward the end of the procession, officials said, as tens of thousands of people rushed toward Hussein’s shrine. The charge, known as the Tweireej run, is named after the nearby village from where Hussein’s maternal cousins tried to mount a rescue — only to realize he had already been killed.
“A spokesman for the body in charge of the Imam Hussein shrine said the stampede began after several pilgrims fainted as temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Unable to see what had happened up ahead, the waves of pilgrims kept running, before many of them slipped and stumbled in a deadly crush. ‘Aid workers immediately started to evacuate the injured, but due to the large number, it happened so fast and led to casualties,’ Afdhal al-Shami said.
The Abuja procession appeared to have been without incident as the group marched from the Berger Roundabout to Wuse, a short distance of less than five kilometres that took less than 20 minutes.
But the Shi’ites say the nationwide procession claimed 15 of its members were killed during the Ashura mourning procession in Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Sokoto and others.
Several people were said to have sustained gunshots injury, amidst fears that many more may die from injuries.
Spokesman of IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said in a statement “In Bauchi, reports also have it that three people were killed during the Ashura procession when the police attacked the mourners. Likewise three other people were killed by the police in Azare, also in Bauchi state.
“Another three people were killed by the police in Gombe, Gombe state.
“One person was reportedly killed by the police in Illela, during the Ashura procession there and another person was killed in Goronyo all in Sokoto state.
“In Malumfashi, Katsina state also another person was killed. In Katsina town however, several people sustained bullet wounds when the police opened fire on the mourners, not only during the mourning procession, but afterwards as the well- armed policemen attempted to forcibly make their way into the Islamic centre of the Movement.
“These casualty figures may however rise due to the fatal gunshot wounds sustained by some of the peaceful mourners.
“This year’s Ashura procession was held in all the state capitals of the North and Abuja.
“It ended peacefully in Abuja, Jos, Kebbi, Minna, Lafia, Yola, Gusau, Zaria, Kano, Jalingo, Damaturu, Hadejia and Potiskum.
“Today’s show of shame and rage by the police across the states was sequel to the tragic orders given to it by the Inspector general of police, Mohammed Adamu to brutally attack the peaceful Ashura mourners.
“That the mourning procession ended peacefully in places not attacked by the police is sufficient evidence as to who the instigators of violence are whenever we are carrying out our legitimate religious duties.
“We are grateful to Allah the Almighty that has granted us the courage to come out in several cities and villages across the country to commemorate the brutal killing of Imam Hussein (AS), the Grandson of Prophet Muhammad (S) as it is done in several cities across the globe, despite intimidation and threats by the federal government and its agents, acting on behalf of the Saudis by proxy.”