Saturday, December 12, was indeed a sad day for the Shiite Islamic sect as no fewer than twenty members of its members were killed in a shootout with the Nigerian Army. This happened when the military boys cracked down on the sect for blocking the highways during the sect’s public procession in Kaduna State. As a fallout of the attack, both parties (the military and members of the sect) have laid the blame on each other, accusing each other for setting off the attacks that led to the unwarranted bloodshed on Saturday.
The attack, which took place in Gyallesu and Sokoto Road, where Hussainiyya – the spiritual center of the sect – is located, saw Sayyid Ibraheem Elzakzaky, the leader of the sect, arrested by Nigerian troops, while a top leader of the movement, Muhammadu Turi, and the head of the medical team of the sect, Mustapha Saidu, as well as several others, numbering up to twenty, lost their lives, even though Sahara Reporters reported that at least 100 lives were lost.
The Nigerian Army claim the Shiite sect attempted to abduct Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, and vowed to put an end to the threats, delays and disruption caused by the group, while the Islamic movement said soldiers simply decided to attack “defenseless people.”
Presently, these killings, especially, the killing of Turi, who was the leader of the Kano Center, has sparked off tensions in Kano. Members of the sect have been staging rallies in different parts of the town, accusing the government of complicity in the attack and calling the international communities to assist them in making sure that the Nigerian Army is made to pay for its actions.
The Shiite Islamic group released a statement through their spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, which read:
“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 meantime, 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 meantime, 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 Nigerian Army on their part, claim that the Shiite sect’s attack on the Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai and his convoy on their way to Zaria was a planned assassination attempt on the army boss which was repelled. The sect, the Army said, were heavily armed and barricaded the road. And even when they were entreated to disperse, they refused and instead started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects. And the shootout that followed, was the military’s attempt to defend their boss and they also had a number of casualties.
The Nigerian Army also released a statement on the incident. The statement signed by Col. Sani Usman, Acting Director, Army Public relations read:
“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.
“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 inquiry 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.
Another statement by the Nigerian army read:
“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.
“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.”