Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called on the Nigerian government to take “prompt and serious” action to prevent further violence against Muslims in the African country.
In a telephone conversation with his Nigerian counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama on Monday, Zarif expressed “deep concern” over the recent bloody clashes, which broke out between Muslim worshipers and government troops in Nigeria’s northern city of Zaria.
The Nigerian government is expected to take serious and prompt measures to contain violence, maintain calm and protect the lives of Muslims, Zarif said.
The Nigerian foreign minister, for his part, expressed hope that consultations with the country’s senior officials would lead to the restoration of calm to the region and prevent the escalation of clashes and violence.
At least 15 people were killed and many more injured after clashes erupted in Zaria, in Kaduna state, on Saturday.
Reports said soldiers opened fire on Shia Muslims attending a ceremony in Hussainiyyah Baqeeyatullah, a religious center in the northern city. The Shias had reportedly stopped the convoy of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai as the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, was planning a speech in the religious center.
Authorities accuse the Shia cleric of trying to assassinate the Nigerian army chief, a charge that he has vehemently denied.
Following the incident, Nigerian forces raided the home of the top Shia cleric and arrested him after killing several of those protecting him, including one of the group’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
Some reports had put the death toll at about 20 but the Islamic Movement of Nigeria said the army had killed hundreds of its members.
Since the arrest, the fate of Zakzaky remains unknown.