ÎIran on Monday issued a strong warning to Nigeria to release Shi’ite cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zazaky. The warning came just as Iran, which is also involved in a diplomatic brawl with Saudi Arabia following the execution of a renowned Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, had ties with it scaled down by three countries. Spokesman of the Iranian foreign ministry, Hoseyn Jaberi-Ansari who spoke with reporters in the capital, Tehran, said his government had used all diplomatic channels to secure the release of El-Zakyzaky to no avail.
“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,” Jaberi-Ansari said. Iran has continued to mount pressure on Nigeria to release Shiite leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky who was arrested by the Nigerian Army in December 2015.
The government of Iran had earlier warned Nigeria to tread with caution following the battle between the Army and Shiite Muslims in Zaria, Kaduna State. The warning was also given by Jaber-Ansari on Sunday, December 13, 2015, according to state-owned network, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “Nigeria… is now dealing with problems arising from extremism and Takfiri terrorism and we hope that in these conditions preservation of calm and national unity in battling terrorism is prioritised while rash and unconstructive measures are avoided,” IRNA quoted Jaber-Ansari as saying. Soldiers engaged the Shiites in a battle after the group allegedly attempted to assassinate Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai on Saturday, December 12, 2015. The conflict escalated after soldiers surrounded Zakzaky’s home and arrested him. The Shiites have claimed that about 1000 members of the group died during the confrontation. Meanwhile, El-Zakzaky’s group which is also the leading Shia Muslim group in Nigeria has condemned the execution of a Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday after he was convicted of terror-related offences.
The group, known as the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), said in a statement that Sheikh Nimr had eschewed “all violent opposition”, and his execution did not bode well for peace and development. Saudi Arabia and other “undemocratic, despotic regimes across the globe should know that the truth cannot be silenced by state-sponsored terrorism”, it added. In another development, a number of Saudi Arabia’s allies have joined diplomatic action against Iran after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked amid a row over the execution of Sheikh Nimr. Bahrain and Sudan have both severed relations with Iran, and the UAE has downgraded its diplomatic team.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday severed ties and gave Iran’s diplomats two days to go. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said trade links with Iran would be cut and air traffic links stopped. But in an interview with Reuters news agency, Mr alJubeir also said Iranian pilgrims travelling to holy sites in Mecca and Medina would still be allowed to enter. Saudi Arabia and Iran are respectively the key Sunni and Shia powers in the region and back opposing sides in Syria and Yemen.