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Nigeria: Shia Muslims killed by army, claims of ‘assassination attempt’

13th Dec 2015
Nigeria: Shia Muslims killed by army, claims of ‘assassination attempt’

By Olarewaju Kola & Anadolu Agency staff

 

LAGOS & MAIDUGURI, (AA): At least six people are thought to have been killed on Saturday in northern Nigeria, with the military claiming there was an attempted assassination of the country’s chief-of-staff. Between 10 to 30 Shia Muslims are believed to have been killed on Friday by the military.

A Nigerian army spokesman accused the Islamic Movement of a “deliberate assassination” attempt of army chief Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai in Zaria city.

The army said hundreds of people laid roadblocks, with Shia gunmen opening fire on a convoy carrying the senior officer.

Buratai escaped the incident, in which the army said it acted within its “Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct”.

However, the Shia group disputed the army’s version of events. It described an “unprovoked siege” on its headquarters by troops and called the assassination claim an afterthought and a “blatant lie”.

“The attack on the defenseless people by the Nigerian soldiers [was] unprovoked,” the movement said in a statement on its website.

Its spokesman, Ibrahim Usman, in a counter statement, said:

“At noon today (Friday) armed soldiers were seen in the precincts of Hussainiyyah Baqiyyatullah, Zaria, where members of the Islamic Movement were to carry out the hoisting of flag to usher in the new month of Maulud, the birth of the Holy Prophet of Islam.

“Similar occasion was previously carried out on the same spot with free traffic flow under the supervision of the Movement’s traffic warders.

“When some brothers met the soldiers to understand the mission of the soldiers, they took position and opened fire indiscriminately, killed many and took away seven of the casualties to an unknown location.

“Based on the foregoing, we believe that the military had pre-planned this and had acted according to their mischievous script. They came with their cameramen, videotaping the whole incidence while it lasted.

“We are however surprised that, spokesman of the military Colonel Kuka Sheka shamelessly came out in the media and issued a press statement to say, that it was an assassination attempt on the Chief of Army Staff on the order of the movement’s leader.

“Why was it that there were no casualties on the side of the military, if it were to be an assassination attempt? What happened was never a clash, but a continuation of act of terrorism by the Nigerian military on the Movement, as was the case in the past.

“We are not surprised by this action, as there were reports spread by the same military the night before that the Shi’ites were to avenge their dead by hired thugs on Friday in Gabari, a village in Zaria.

“The same military also spread rumour that the Shi’as had killed soldiers, all in attempt to justify (Saturday’s) dastardly act.

“Kuka Sheka should know that once bitten twice shy. The 2014 massacre of 34 members of the Islamic Movement, including three of Sheikh Zakzaky’s children by the military; the attempt on Sheikh Zakzaky’s convoy by the same military are still on our minds.”

Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that the security forces had opened fire on the group’s headquarters.

“Six members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria were killed at the Hussainiyah area when soldiers laid siege on their headquarters. This later led to serious protest and confusion in Zaria,” said Abubakar Sidi, a resident of Hussainiyah, claimed, adding that nine other people had been injured.

Another resident, Tolhat Umar, said soldiers had been seeking a Shia leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, but met with resistance.

“There was argument and then shooting by both sides. At the last count, six Shiite members died,” Umar claimed.

The army and the Shia Muslim community have had a long-running dispute dating back to 1979.

Last year, at least 33 Shia Muslims were gunned down by soldiers in Zaria during an encounter, after which both sides gave contradictory accounts.

Earlier this month, dozens died in a suicide attack on a Shia procession near northwestern Kano city. Shia spokespersons later claimed it had been masterminded by the army.

 

Additional report by Agencies

 

 

[Photo: Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky. Photographer: Tajo Malli/ CreativeCommons]

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