Angered by the orders of the soldiers, the group was said to have opened fire at the soldiers and used other dangerous object to stone them.

Molly Kilete, Abuja

Hell was let loose yesterday in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), when members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) overpowered police operatives who had been preventing them from gaining access into Abuja and engaged troops of the Guards Brigade in a shootout. In the process, an unspecified number of persons were said to have been killed and several others injured while some motorists had their vehicles destroyed by the Shi’ite group, who threw stones and other dangerous items at innocent people.

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The Shi’ites were said to have stormed Nyanya in their thousands. The pandemonium that ensued led to a traffic gridlock on the ever-busy Nyanya/Keffi road, as thousands of residents and travellers spent several hours stranded on the road.

Those who could not withstand the situation abandoned their vehicles and trekked home. The situation was so bad that even commercial motorcycle operators, popularly known as okada, could not ply the route.

Men of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Vehicle Inspection Office, Special Marshal’s and other security agencies called to help with the traffic situation were overwhelmed by the situation. One motorist told Daily Sun that it took him two hours to get to AYA Junction from Powerhouse Junction and he wondered when he would get home.

Trouble started after members of the IMN overpowered the police who had been preventing them from entering the FCT at Mararaba and marching into the city when they were stopped at a military checkpoint by soldiers who forbade them from going any further.

Angered by the orders of the soldiers, the group was said to have opened fire at the soldiers and used other dangerous object to stone them. The incident, which happened at about 3:30pm, led to a shootout between the Shi’ite group and the soldiers.

Daily Sun gathered that policemen who had been battling since Saturday to confine the group at Mararaba, a satellite town in Nasarawa State near Abuja, were eventually overpowered by the group, thus forcing the police to retreat.

When contacted on the matter the commander of the Guards Brigade, Brig. Gen. U.T. Musa, confirmed the incident but said normalcy has been restored in the area and urged people to go about their lawful business.

He, however, warned that the brigade would not tolerate a situation where innocent persons were attacked without the slightest provocation.

Musa said the standing rule of the brigade was that nobody was allowed entry into the city of Abuja without due permission, adding that the brigade would do all in its power to ensure no person or group violated the order.

Narrating what happened, the commander said it was the Shi’ite group that opened fire at the soldiers after they refused them passage and the soldiers had no option than to defend themselves.

“They started shooting at us and we had no option but to defend ourselves and that is exactly what we have done. The Shi’ites came in their thousands stoning soldiers, police and even motorists plying the road and everybody. So, we operated as per the rule of engagement, so that was what happened.

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“This whole mess started about 3:30 p.m. or thereabouts and it started from Nyanya, where they stoned the police and overpowered them. You know, we have a checkpoint around Karu Bridge and we have a rule that nobody enters this city without permission; so it was actually at the checkpoints that this thing happened.

“They were in their thousands chanting and stoning everybody and destroying everybody’s vehicle along the road and we cannot take that. We have restored normalcy and traffic is flowing now,” he said in a telephone interview.