Army Chief Escapes Assassination, As Soldiers, Shiites Clash In Zaria
THERE was pandemonium in Zaria, Kaduna State, yesterday, as members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, otherwise known as Shiites, clashed with soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, leaving an unspecified number of people dead and others injured.
Army spokesperson, Colonel Abubakar Usman Kukasheka, who was with the Army Chief, billed to attend the Passing Out Parade (POP) of the Nigerian Army Depot, described the incident as an assassination attempt.
But Mallam Usman Ibrahim, media aide to the Shiite leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky, in a reaction, said, “as members of the Islamic Movement were heading to the centre where the prayers to usher in the Maulud was to be held, soldiers started shooting at them and we presently have three dead bodies in our possession with 20 others injured.”
The incident happened at noon in the Sabon Gari area of Zaria when the sect’s members blocked the access road taken by the COAS and his convoy, who were on their was to an official assignment.
A statement from the acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, confirmed the attack, saying it was carried out on the directive of sect leader, Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky.
Usman said the army boss was on his way to visit the Emir of Zazzau and attend the Passing Out Parade of 73 Regular Recruits Intake of Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria, when hundreds of armed sect members blocked the way.
The statement reads in part, “The sect numbering hundreds and carrying dangerous weapons barricaded the road 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.”
The statement further said the sound of explosions coming from the direction of the sect members, who had women in front, compelled the soldiers in the convoy of the Army Chief to respond, in a bid to protect their principal and those in his convoy including journalists.
“The troops responsible for the safety and security of the Chief of Army Staff, on hearing explosion and firing, were left with no choice but 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,” Usman said.
Though he did not disclose if there were casualties, a source at the scene said there was quite a handful on both sides. The number, however, remains uncertain.