ABUJA, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Nigerian police have been placed on a heightened state of alert after the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military commander in Iraq sparked fears of public disturbances in the West African country, the police said on Sunday.
Qassem Soleimani was killed on Friday in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport. The attack has prompted concern of ramping tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Nigeria is split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims, the latter of which are mostly Sunni. The government last year banned the country’s largest Shi’ite Muslim group, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), after violent clashes between its members and police.
IMN was heavily influenced by the Iranian revolution of 1979 which saw Ayatollah Khomeini take power.
“The Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has placed police commands and formations nationwide on red alert,” the Nigeria Police Force said in a statement on Sunday.
“This proactive measure follows intelligence report that sequel to the recent killing of an Iranian general; some domestic interests are planning to embark on massive public disturbances and sabotage,” it said.
It said senior police officials had been “directed to ensure maximum surveillance and security of lives and property across the nation.”
The statement did not name any specific groups or give further details. A police spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls requesting comment.
Reuters was unable to independently verify claims that public events were planned.
Nigeria banned IMN and outlawed its demonstrations which its members held to call for the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been held since 2015 when government forces killed around 350 people in a storming of the group’s compound.
The group last year said more than 30 of its members were killed in police crackdowns on its protests. Police gave no death toll. (Reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh in Abuja, and Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Chris Reese)