Reuters International

ABUJA (Reuters) - A northern Nigerian state on Friday said it declared a minority Shi'ite Muslim sect, whose members clashed with the army late last year, an unlawful society.

The Kaduna state government said anyone convicted of being a member of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria could be imprisoned for seven years, fined or both. The size of the fine was not specified.

The sect came to prominence when its members clashed with the army in the northern city of Zaria, Kaduna state, in December. A judicial inquiry in August concluded that the army killed 348 of the sect's members.

The Kaduna state government said the group had "overtly continued with unlawful processions" and "obstruction of public highways" since the clashes.

"These acts, if allowed to go unchecked will constitute danger to the peace, tranquillity, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna state," it said, declaring the group unlawful with immediate effect.

Members of the sect are among the several thousand Shi'ite Muslims whose movement was inspired by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The majority of the tens of millions of Muslims in Africa's most populous nation of 180 million inhabitants are Sunni - including the Boko Haram militants who have killed thousands in bombings and shootings mainly in the northeast since 2009.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh, Felix Onuah and Alexis Akwagyiram; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Leslie Adler)


 Reuters International