Army, Shi’ite Showdown: Zakzaky’s Followers Give Conditions For Peace
Ahead of Nigerian Northern Governors Forum’s Emergency meeting in Kaduna Leaders of Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria yesterday, in Abuja, itemized five conditions for possible truce, chief among them the immediate release of their spiritual leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky.
The sect also insisted that the killing of its members by Nigerian soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State, was unprovoked.
The group, which claimed that more than 300 of their members were shot dead during the Saturday and Sunday showdown, said it could not account for most of their corpses till date.
Also, the Nigerian Army yesterday released a video clip detailing how soldiers in the convoy of chief of army staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, were pleading with the angry members of the Shia group to remove barricades and let the top soldier’s convoy pass.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, the group’s Media Forum Secretary, Abdulmumin Giwa, and Yola leader of the movement, Abdulrahman Abubakar, said they had incurred both human and material losses as a result of the clamp down on them by soldiers.
Presenting a catalogue of demands to the government of Nigeria, the embattled group’s leaders said: “We want the army to hand over our leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, to us immediately for medical care. We ask the military to release all our arrested members. We ask for the army to stop molestation of our members; all corpses of our brothers and sisters killed by the army should be released for proper Islamic burial. We want full compensation for the lives lost as well as our properties destroyed, and we want a full-scale investigation and prosecution of culprits involved in the killing of our members.”
Giwa said that since the Saturday incident, their members have continued to suffer more deaths with the Tuesday incident when men of the Nigerian Police Mobile Force attacked their members and killed four.
“We had no premeditated plan to attack the chief of army staff as claimed by the army,” said Giwa. “On that fateful day when we were getting set to celebrate the Maulud of our holy prophet at the Husseiniyya prayer ground, the Nigerian Army came and stationed a detachment of soldiers there and the military presence created tension amongst our members. Even when the COAS came to pass, there was no incident at all. But two hours later, soldiers came back and began to open fire on our members. More than 300 people were killed there.”
Sheikh-ZakzakyAccording to him, later in the night, the army went to Gellesu residence of leader and opened fire on our members, including our leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, and three of his children. More deaths were recorded there; in fact the death toll was four times more than what was recorded at Husseiniyya.
He claimed that most of the dead bodies were evacuated by the army and taken to unknown places.
The two spokesmen of the group said El-Zakzaky had called some of the members shortly before soldiers picked him up, to tell them that he sustained bullet injuries in his eyes and in his right shoulder.
“He informed his only surviving son that he was bleeding profusely and that the corpses of his three sons: Hamad (18), Ali (16) and Humeid (13) were lying dead in front of him at the time the soldiers were shooting into his home,” said Abubakar, the Yola leader of the sect.
Denying the allegation that they had armed sect members during the face-off with soldiers, the duo of Giwa and Abubakar said their group had been known as one of the most peaceful and responsible religious bodies in Nigeria.
“We have never been associated with any form of violence in many years of our existence. In fact, we have been rated as the highest donor to the blood bank in Nigeria”, said Giwa.
The group said the video clips made available by the Nigerian Army showing their (sect) members in open confrontation with soldiers on the security detail of the chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, was not a true reflection of what led to their member’s death.