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Nigeria: Army kills 20 Shia Muslims, arrests Shia Muslim leader

14th Dec 2015
Nigeria: Army kills 20 Shia Muslims, arrests Shia Muslim leader

LAGOS,  (AA) – The Nigerian military has killed at least 20 Shia Muslims, including a senior Shia scholar, wife and son of head of Isalmic Movement. Sources say leader of the Movement, Sheikh Ibrahim al Zakzaky was arrested by the army.

The Nigerian army had accused the country’s Islamic Movement, led by Shia scholar Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, of an assassination attempt on army chief Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai in Kaduna state’s Zaria city on Saturday. Th Islamic Movement has denied the allegations.

Since then there have been clashes between armed followers of Zakzaky and the military.

However, the Nigerian army said in a brief statement late on Sunday only that there had been a “loss of lives” and did not comment on the number of the dead or the identities of those killed.

The army did not comment on Zakzaky’s status.

Ibrahim Musa, president of the media forum of the Islamic Movement, produced a statement on Sunday claiming that at least 18 people had been killed in a siege of the group’s headquarters.

Musa added that a number of “leading” figures were among the dead, but would not be drawn on Zakyzaky’s whereabouts.

Muhammadu Turi, and the head of the medical team of the Movement, Mustapha Saidu, and several others were killed during the siege.Zeenat, the wife of the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim Zakzaky, and Aliy, Mr. Zakzaky’s son, Ali, 14, were among the scores of people killed during a siege by the Nigerian Army on Saturday, the group has said.

Three of Mr. Zakzaky’s sons had been killed in a similar attack by the Nigerian Army in July 2014.The movement in a statement by Ibrahim Musa, head of its Media Forum, said apart from Mr. Zakzaky’s son and wife, other prominent leaders of the group were also killed.

“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, Muhammad Turi, Mustapha Sa’eed, Ibrahim Usman and Jummai Gilima.“The sporadic killings took place at three different locations that include 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 armless 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 run into 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,” the statement said.

Nigeria Sheikh Zakzaky Photo Tajo Malli Creative Commons

[Photo: Sheikh El Zakzaky. Photographer: Tajo Malli/Creative-Commons]

-Heavy gun battles since Saturday

Eyewitnesses said that senior Shia cleric Sheikh Muhammad Mahmud Turi was killed at the home of Zakzaky early on Sunday morning.

Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, a senior journalist and resident in the north, said Sunday:

“The news has just filtered in that the altercation in Zaria, which started yesterday, has recorded its major victim yet. Mallam Muhammad Turi is reported killed in front of Sheikh Zakzaky’s residence in Gyellesu, Zaria, this morning.”

“Sheikh Turi was not just an ordinary Shiite cleric. He was an influential member of the inner cycle, seen as a possible heir to Zakzaky,” Abdulaziz added.

Harun el-Binawi, a public affairs commentator and member of the Shia movement, also told Anadolu Agency that the Nigerian military had killed the cleric.

A national spokesman for the Islamic Movement, Ibrahim Usman, has also been killed, Ahmad Saqofa, the movement’s spokesman in Kano, said.

“Usman and Sheikh Turi were among the many brothers killed by the army,” Saqofa told Anadolu Agency by phone.

The Nigerian military did not officially respond to queries about the killings. However, a military source confirmed to Anadolu Agency the cleric’s killing at the hands of the army.

Residents in Zaria city’s Shia-majority areas of Gyellesu and Tundun Wada told Anadolu Agency there had been heavy gunfights since Saturday between soldiers and armed followers of the cleric.

Hamid Abubakar, a resident of the area, spoke to Anadolu Agency by phone:

“We did not sleep overnight. As we speak, there is still a gunfight [taking place] between the soldiers and members of Shia. Troops have cordoned off the residence of Sheikh Zakzaky. There are dead bodies around.”

Troops were said to be attempting to arrest the main leader of the movement.

Nadeerah Mahmoud, another resident, used social media to say that troops were moving in to “capture” the Shia leader.

“Soldiers are on a mission to capture the Shia leader; we are caught between gunshots and bomb blasts. Pray for Zaria,” Mahmoud tweeted.

“Heavy gunshots and demolition in Gyellesu Zaria as Nigerian army tries to capture Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky,” she added.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has denied that it attempted to kill the army chief and instead blamed the army for invading its Hussainiyah headquarters in Zaria.

There are unconfirmed reports suggesting that Zakzaky has been captured and his house has been set ablaze by Nigerian military; however, the information has yet to be verified.

The movement’s official website was also shut down, allegedly by the Nigerian authorities.

Zakzaky came to prominence in the early 1980s. He is known to have had several run-ins with the Nigerian authorities in the past. During the regime of the late Nigerian dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, he was held behind bars for two years.

There have been other attacks on the Shia Muslim community in the recent past in Nigeria.

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 that the attack had been masterminded by the army.

According to estimates, Nigeria’s population is around 170 million, out of which 85 million are said to be Muslims. Shia Muslims are said to constitute less than five percent of the total Muslim population, who are mostly found in the northwestern states of Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto.

 
Additional reporting The Muslim News
[Photo: Zinnat El Zakzaky killed by Nigerian armed forces with her son Ali, 14.]

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