No fewer than 20 members of the Shi’ite sect were killed, yesterday, as the military cracked down on the sect for blocking the highways during their public procession in Zaria, Kaduna State. The sect, however, claimed that hundreds of its members were killed by soldiers who stormed three of its locations with heavy military weapons. It was gathered that the troops engaged members of the sect throughout the night as heavy shootings and sounds of explosions were heard in Gyallesu and Sokoto Road, where Hussainiyya – the spiritual centre of the sect – is located.
The Nigerian Army and members of the sect have accused each other of instigating attacks that led to the death of members of the movement on Saturday.
While the Army accused the Shiite followers of attempting to assassinate Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, the Islamic movement said soldiers simply decided to attack “defenceless people”.
The army on its part vowed to put an end to the threats, delays and disruption caused by the group.
Meanwhile, the where about of the leader of the sect, Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky was unknown as the sect claimed that its members, who were killed, included the leader of the Kano Centre, Sheikh Muhammad Turi, the son of sect leader, Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife.
In its account of the violent confrontation between it and the military, the sect, in a statement by its spokesman, Ibrahim Musa said: “Following alleged blockade of the route of the Chief of Army Staff by the members of the Movement, the Nigerian Army brutally descended on armless members of the Movement with heavy military weapons killing indiscriminately.
“In the mean time, leading members of the Islamic Movement and other members as well, have been killed by the soldiers including the leader of the Kano Center, Sheikh Muhammad Turi, Dr. Mustapha Sa’eed, Malam Ibrahim Usman and Sister Jummai Gilima.
“Also killed were Sayyid Aliy, the son of the leader of the Movement, Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky; the wife of Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky, Malama Zeenat Ibraheem and tens of other members as more are being killed as at the time of this release.
“The sporadic killings took place at three locations that included the residence of the revered leader of the Movement at Gyallesu, the Husainiyya Bakiyatullah at the GRA and the Darur Rahma located along Zaria-Jos road where many unarmed people were killed.
“The killing was so brutal at Gyallesu that even those injured in the shooting were identified and killed in cold blood by the soldiers. And as at the time of writing this press release, the victims are in their hundreds, if not thousands.
“Considering the gross violation of fundamental human rights and extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the Nigerian Army, the Islamic Movement hereby condemns these unjustifiable acts.
“We state categorically that the claim by the Army that members of the Movement attempted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff was a blatant lie as the army came back to launch their attack more than an hour after the COAS had passed.
“Clearly, the Nigerian government through its military is now on rampage in an all out war with the Islamic movement, its members and structures. The scale of this attack would suggest it was meticulously planned by authorities and now being executed ruthlessly. The alleged attack on COAS Burutai was just an alibi.
“Therefore, with all pointers at the government as the contractor of the killings, we hereby call on well meaning Nigerians and the international community to intervene and seek redress for the victims and their family members as many innocent people have unjustifiably been killed and many others severely injured.
“In the mean time, there is no idea as to the where about of the leader of the Movement, Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky nor his current condition, and aggrieved members of the Movement across the country have taken to the streets in protests”.
The killing of Turi, the leader of the Kano Center, has sparked tension in Kano, as members of the sect staged a rally from Saturday night till about 4am on Sunday. Another rally held on Sunday around Fagged Mosque, popularly known as ‘Waje Mosque’. According to a Kano resident, tens of thousands of Shi’ia members trooped to the nooks and crannies of Kano, passing through the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, and raining expletives on the military personnel attached to Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff.
Army vows to ensure law and order prevail
The Nigerian Army in a statement giving an update on the confrontation said, “Saturday’s incident involving clashes between detachments of the Nigerian Army, accompanying the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General TY Buratai and followers of Sheikh Ibrahim El Zak-Zaky, suspected to be members of the Shiite Sect in Zaria, leading to loss of lives as a result of the Shiite group members’ blocking roads and not allowing other passers-by to go about their lawful businesses and activities, was most unfortunate.
“The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the rights of any group of persons and Sheikh El Zak Zaky’s followers to hold a peaceful march or procession unhindered, but it also guarantees other people’s rights of way on public highways.
“It is important to note that over the years this group has subjected ordinary citizens using public roads to untold hardship, delays, threats and disruption simply because they insist on using public space irrespective of inconvenience and hardship on other law abiding citizens and motorists.”
The statement signed by Col. Sani Usman, Acting Director, Army Public relations said: “This cannot be tolerated and must stop!
“As soon as order is restored to the situation in Zaria city and its environs, the Police will conduct an enquiry and the public will be informed.
“In the meantime, the public is advised to go about their lawful business and report any suspicious persons or incidents to the police.
In an earlier statement on the clash, the army said that members of the Shiite Islamic sect Saturday attacked the Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai and his convoy on their way to Zaria to attend the passing out parade of 73rd regular intake of Depot, Nigerian Army.
The army added that the attack was a planned assassination attempt on the army boss which was repelled and that the army Chief escaped unhurt.
In the ensuing shootout that followed, an unspecified number of persons lost their lives while there were injuries on both the side of the army and the Shiites.
A statement by the Army had said : “The sect numbering hundreds and carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres.
“They refused all entreaties to disperse and then started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects.
“The barricade was obviously a deliberate attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff and members of his entourage while on a legitimate official assignment as Special Guest of Honour at the passing out parade which has earlier been widely publicized.
Continuing it said, “The troops responsible for the safety and security of the Chief of Army Staff on hearing explosion and firing were left with no choice than to defend him and the convoy at all cost as well as open up the barricaded road for law abiding citizens.
“This is in line with the Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct.
“This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated from any individual or groups and should not be allowed to repeat itself.
“We wish to implore all Nigerians to continue to be law abiding and remain conscious of other people’s right to life, freedom of movement and passage.
“The Chief of Army escaped unhurt and continued with his duties.