At least 10 people were killed and scores injured on Wednesday in violent clashes between Shia Muslims, civilians and security forces across northern Nigeria, according to members of the pro-Iran group Islamic Movement in Nigeria and witnesses.
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Despite being banned in one northern state, thousands of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) members had taken to the streets for the annual Ashura march, a major Shia festival.
Soldiers and police opened fire on an IMN procession in the town of Funtua in northern Katsina state, killing 10 people and injuring scores of others, IMN spokesman Husseini Yero told AFP.
"We now have the dead bodies of 10 of our members killed by soldiers and policemen who opened fire on our procession," Yero said.
Two Funtua residents, who asked to remain anonymous because of security concerns, confirmed seeing 10 bodies and "several" people with injuries.
The violence comes less than a week after northern Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai banned the group as an "unlawful society", saying it was a security threat and calling for security forces to "vigorously" arrest its members.
In the city of Kaduna, a mob looted and torched the home of the IMN leader in the city.
Hundreds of men sacked the home of Mukhtar Sahabi in the Tudun Wada area before setting it on fire.
"We are still trying to confirm the fate of two of our members that were in the house," said IMN member Ishaq Saleh.
"We are afraid they might have been killed."
In northern Nigeria's largest city of Kano, dozens were injured when mobs attacked the IMN procession with stones, police said.
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"The IMN procession was attacked by hoodlums who pelted them with stones for blocking the roads, which denied many people access to the market and the main hospital in the city," said Kano police spokesman Magaji Majia.
"We treated 17 people injured by the mob in our clinic and rescued 138 IMN women from the mob."
Clashes between the Nigerian military and IMN supporters led to over 300 deaths in December last year.
Two days of violence began on December 12, when supporters of the pro-Iranian cleric and IMN head, Ibrahim Zakzaky, refused to allow the chief of army staff's convoy to pass through the northern city of Zaria in Kaduna state.
Rights group Amnesty International later accused Nigeria's military of "excessive force".
IMN leader Zakzaky, who lost an eye and was left partly paralysed in the violence, has been held in custody since December, with fears the military crackdown could result in a violent uprising similar to the devastating Boko Haram insurgency.
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Experts warned that the heavy-handed Nigerian response to the violence had stoked tension at a time when security forces were already overstretched fighting Boko Haram extremists in the northeast and Niger delta militants in the south.
"You're seeing an increase in anti-Shia bigotry," Jos-based political analyst Chris Ngwodo said.
"You could easily have a situation of retaliatory violence," he said. "You're looking at a process of radicalisation."
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