The United States has advised its citizens in Nigeria to avoid large crowds and demonstrations in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and Lagos, its commercial nerve centre.
The U.S. Mission in Nigeria issued the alert on Friday ahead of ‘expected’ protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
“The U.S. Mission in Nigeria advises U.S. citizens that large demonstrations by protesters affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria are expected in the coming days throughout the country, including Abuja and Lagos.
“Protests by this group in the Nigerian capital on July 9 became violent, including exchanges of gunfire between protestors and Nigerian Police, resulting in a couple of deaths. The U.S. Mission advises its citizens to avoid these demonstrations and remain in safe areas during these periods,” a statement by the mission reads.
Consequently, the mission advised U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations and large crowds, be aware of their surroundings, monitor local media for updates and carry proper identification, including a U.S. passport with a current Nigerian visa.
The mission also urged all affected to review their personal security plans.
This admonition is coming at the height of spates of violent protests by members of IMN popularly called Shiites.
On Tuesday, a clash between the group and police led to the hospitalisation of two officers. Two IMN members were also reportedly killed by the police. About nine vehicles were destroyed allegedly by the protesters demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
The police said it arrested 40 members of the group following the confrontation at the National Assembly.
In a statement signed by Abdullahi Musa, a leader of the group’s Academic Forum on Wednesday, IMN said the injured officers were attacked by their colleagues planted as moles within the group.
The protest continued in Abuja on Thursday and Friday.
Mr El-Zakzaky has been arrested since December 2015 after soldiers clamped down on his supporters and killed at least 347 of them. The soldiers accused the Shiite group of blocking a major road that was to be used by army chief Tukur Buratai.
That massacre of the Shiites has been condemned by local and international rights groups.
Since the December 2015 incident, Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah have been in detention; first without trial for about a year. They were eventually charged with murder for the death of a soldier during the December 2015 incident.