Azeri policemen have shot and killed five Shia Muslims and arrested 32 others as the government in Baku steps up its crackdown on the majority sect.
Azerbaijan’s Interior Minister Ramil Usubov said Wednesday night that the Shias had been targeted in the eastern village of Nardaran for allegedly plotting a coup against the government.
The dead and the detainees were all members of the Movement for Muslim Unity (MMU), which the Azeri government accuses of seeking to establish a Muslim state in secular Azerbaijan.
The Shia group is based in Nardaran, just outside the capital Baku.
Also on Tuesday, hundreds of Azerbaijani forces carried out a raid on the town, harassing the population and tearing down Shia religious symbols.
Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry announced that the raid was under the direct supervision of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Earlier on Saturday, four other members of the group had been killed during a police raid in the same village.
The town has been under siege and without power, water and gas since last Thursday when government troops killed four people in a raid on a Shia religious ceremony and arrested Shia cleric Tale’ Baqirzadeh (Bagirov), the MMU leader.