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Scores feared killed in fresh Shiites, soldiers clash


El Zakzaky

El Zakzaky

• Troops arrest El Zakzaky
• Army to conduct public inquiry

SCORES of lives were suspected to have been lost in Zaria, Kaduna State yesterday when members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, also known as Shiites, again clashed with armed soldiers a day after an alleged assassination attempt on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai.

The clash that erupted on Saturday midnight continued till noon yesterday. The authorities of the Nigeria Army have described as unfortunate the loss of lives on Saturday. They also urged residents to remain calm as armed soldiers took over the city to forestall any further breakdown of law and order.

The army yesterday said it would initiate a public enquiry into the clash between its detachment in the convoy of Buratai, and followers of El Zakzaky. This came as reliable sources within the military, last night, claimed that soldiers, who raided El Zakzaky’s mosque, arrested the cleric. He was said to be under interrogation last night.

The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, yesterday said that the activities of the sect would no longer be allowed to cause hardship to members of the public using the road.

Trouble began after the pandemonium that followed the assassination attempt on the life of Buratai on Saturday in which some Shiites members were said to have clashed with the convoy of the army chief, leading to the death of several members of the movement.

However, an eyewitness told journalists that “after the Saturday clash, armed soldiers decided to keep vigil in Zaria city and the situation deteriorated when thousands of Shiites came from Kano and Kaduna and joined others in Zaria and there was commotion in the midnight with soldiers.

“There was shooting throughout the night and in the melee the Hussainiyya Bagiyyatullah Centre and the Gyallesu House of El Zakzaky were set ablaze. One of his sons and his wife were also killed.

Movement of people and vehicles in Zaria have been restricted since Sunday.”

Meanwhile, as some of the Shiites took their protest to Government House in Kaduna, the Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, visited Zaria, the theatre of the violent clash.

The media aide to the governor, Mallam Samuel Aruwan in a statement said: “Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai has appealed for calm and peace. The governor has spoken on phone with Sheik Ibraheem El Zakzaky and later proceeded to Zaria to see things for himself. He later met with Lt-General Tukur Buratai in Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria. The city is calm and security has been beefed up,” Aruwan said.

But in another statement titled “Indiscriminate killing of members of the Islamic Movement by the Nigerian Army in Zaria,” spokesman for the Shiites, Mallam Ibrahim Musa, yesterday, said: “Following an alleged blockade of the route of the Chief of Army Staff by members of the movement, the Nigerian Army brutally descended on unarmed members with heavy military weapons killing indiscriminately.

“In the meantime, leading members of the movement and others including the leader of the Kano Centre, Sheikh Muhammad Turi, Dr. Mustapha Sa’eed, Malam Ibrahim Usman and Sister Jummai Gilima. have been killed by the soldiers. Also killed were Sayyid Aliy, the son of the leader of the movement, his wife, Malama Zeenat Ibraheem and tens of other members and more are being killed as at the time of this release.”

According to him, “The killings took place at three different locations that include the residence of the revered leader at Gyallesu, the Husainiyya Bakiyatullah at the GRA and the Darur Rahma located along Zaria-Jos road where many unarmed people were killed.”

Musa continued: “The killing was so brutal at Gyallesu that even those injured in the shooting were identified and killed in cold blood by the soldiers. As at the time of issuing this press release, the victims run into their hundreds, if not thousands.

“The Islamic Movement hereby condemns these unjustifiable acts considering the gross violation of fundamental human rights and extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the Nigerian Army.

“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. The scale of this attack would suggest it was meticulously planned by authorities and now being executed ruthlessly.

The alleged attack on Burutai was just an excuse.

“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 been unjustifiably killed and many others severely injured.”

But in a statement issued yesterday evening by Usman, he lamented that ignoring “the rights of others are gradually becoming a pattern allegedly adopted by the sect. The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the rights of any group of persons and Sheikh Ibrahim 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!”

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