4th January, 2016
Iran says it is using all diplomatic channels to pursue the release of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky who was arrested by the Nigerian army last month.
“We have used all those channels to warn them [Nigeria] regarding this issue. So hopefully the government… would adopt wise action given the sensitive situation,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hoseyn Jaberi-Ansari told reporters in the capital, Tehran.
Sheikh al-Zakzaky after members of his Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) clashed with the army in the northern city of Zaria.
Campaign group Human Rights Watch said at least 300 IMN members were killed and quickly buried in a mass graves during the incident. The Nigerian military denied the claim.
The military accuses the pro-Iranian sect of trying to assassinate army chief Gen Tukur Buratai, which it denies.
Iran is currently embroiled in a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia over the execution of a prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Shia in Nigeria
- Shia are minority in Nigeria but their numbers are increasing
- The IMN, formed in the 1980s, is the main Shia group led by Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky
- They operate their own schools and hospitals in some northern states
- They have a history of clashes with the security forces
- The IMN is backed by Shia-dominated Iran and its members often go there to study
- Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram condemns Shias as heretics who should be killed