Newly banned Shiite group in Nigeria appeals in court

A Shiite group in northern Nigeria is appealing in court a ban imposed by local authorities that observers warn could spark sustained violence.

A statement issued Thursday by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria said the ban by Kaduna state officials violates Nigerians' right to religious freedom. The ban was announced last week and made official with its publication on Wednesday.

Nigeria is almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims, most of them Sunni. Tensions with the Shiite population are high after the army gunned down more than 300 people in an attack last December on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria's headquarters.

Kaduna officials say the ban applies only to the group and not Shiites in general. But Human Rights Watch says the ban "appears to have triggered" anti-Shiite violence.