Hundreds of terrorists from the Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) this week reportedly attacked the National Assembly in the Sunni-dominated African country, triggering a violent confrontation with authorities that left at least two militants dead and some police officers injured, Western and local media reported.
Legit, a Nigerian news outlet, described the assault by the anti-West IMN as an attempt to overthrow the government.
Reporting on the deadly incident, Nigeria’s Punch newspaper, revealed:
Our correspondent learned that the dreaded Shiite members overpowered the policemen at the gate, collected one of their guns and shot the two security operatives.
They entered the main entrance popularly known as MOPOL gate and vandalised the gatehouse. They also burnt three vehicles and destroyed many others.
The sect members unleashed terror on other security operatives when tear-gas canisters were fired to disperse them.
An IMN spokesman claimed the attackers were trying to enter the National Assembly peacefully to rally against the continued detention of their pro-Iran leader, Sheik Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, who has been under arrest since 2015, facing murder charges, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think-tank in Washington reports.
Zakzaky’s arrest has triggered several protests across the country by the Shiite minority. IMN claims to be peaceful, CFR points out, adding that the group’s leaders do not advocate violence. Nevertheless, the Shiite group has carried out violent attacks in recent years.
The Africa Report notes:
If the Shia departed from their usual peaceful stance to shoot at law enforcement on Tuesday, then the dynamics of the conflict is changing. The government could seek to inflict more harm on the IMN and its leadership, possibly leading to an escalation.
Both the security forces and the Shiite group claim they lost two of their members each, but the claims have not been independently verified CFR points. Nigerian police officers asserted that they used “minimum force.”
Although there are no specific figures for the size of the Shiite population in Nigeria, Breitbart News, using data from the CIA World Factbook and non-governmental sources, determined that between two and five percent (4-10 million) of Nigerians identified as such.
There is also a significant Lebanese Shiite diaspora in the country.
Nigeria is roughly split between Christians (47 percent) in the south and Muslims (52 percent) in the north, the CIA World Factbook reports.
As the most populous (203.5 million) country in Africa, Nigeria houses the fifth largest Muslim population in the world and the largest on the continent, according to non-governmental organization (NGO) group World Atlas, which monitors the religious population across the globe.
Inspired by the Iranian revolution, the currently imprisoned cleric Zakzaky founded IMN to establish a similar Islamic republic of Nigeria.
In July 2018, the Middle East Institute (MEI) reported that Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah may be training Shiite Nigerian militants in Lebanon to expand its influence in West Africa, home to Nigeria.
An unnamed source told MEI:
Iran has told Hezbollah that it needed to recruit and train Nigerians to establish a stronghold there so that it could serve as an operational base for the rest of Africa, mainly to thwart Israeli and western ambitions in the region.
In June, the Daily Telegraph revealed Iran has expanded its terrorist activities to Africa where it has recruited an estimated 300 militants to attack the United States and other Western targets in retaliation for American sanctions against Tehran.
CFR suggested that Teran may be funding IMN.
Iran’s proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah, is known to traffic illegal drugs from Latin America to Europe, via Western Africa.
Although Hezbollah is reportedly struggling financially as a result of the crippling U.S. sanctions, early last year Forbes deemed the group as the wealthiest terrorist organization, citing its lucrative narcotic operations.
The Sunni groups Boko Haram and its offshoot the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in West Africa remain the most prominent groups in Nigeria. MEI, however, notes that the Shiite movement is growing in Nigeria, mainly due to the increasing sectarian tensions and its repeated clashes with the Sunni-majority nations’ federal police force.