The Nigerian army and members of the Shiite Muslim sect, in Zaria, Kaduna state, had a bloody clash which led to the killing of scores of the sect’s members on Saturday, December 12, a development which tends now to threaten the peace of the country.
An official statement made by Colonel Sani Usman, the army spokesperson, revealed that prior to the bloodbath in Zaria, a convoy of Tukur Buratai, the chief of army staff, was attacked by the Shiite sect on the orders of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.
The attack allegedly took place while Buratai was on his way to pay homage on the Emir of Zazzau and attend the passing out parade of 73 regular recruits intake of depot Nigerian army in Zaria.
The first reports claimed that over twenty people were killed in a raid by the Nigerian army, the dead includes the wife and son of the Nigeria Shi’ite leader, Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky. Multiple reports put this figure to 100 people, as of Monday morning.
Spokesperson for the group, Ibrahim Musa, stressed that the Nigerian army killed it members indiscriminately, adding that both prominent members and followers of the sect were killed in the overnight raid.
It is worthy to note that this is not a first time when members of the movement have clashed with the army.
A similar face-off last year reportedly resulted in the death of many members, including the sons of the movement’s leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky.
The War Of Words
The Nigerian army and members of the Islamic movement on Saturday, December 12, accused each other of instigating attacks that led to the death of members of the sect.
While the army accused the Shiite followers of attempting to assassinate Nigeria’s chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai, the Islamic movement said soldiers simply decided to attack “defenseless people”.
Mallam Isah Abbas Ahmed, who is an indigene of the state, said the Shiites were the defaulters in the feud.
According to Mallam Ahmed, members of the group acted rudely and in an illiterate manner full of disrespect. He claims that for the nation's chief of army staff preferred peace with the group, but his gestures were not accepted.
Ahmed said the truth is, the members of this group, contrary to their leader's claim, held weapons openly and always intimidate the populace and other security agents with them.
He said: “With full sense of humor and assessment of professionalism, I commend the military's conduct in professional way. They stick to only those who fought them and fight back with little or no harassment. They offer hand of peace first and resolve in using force only when their peaceful hands are rejected.”
The Living Rob The Dead
New videos have shown a despicable development that has trailed the clash in Zaria, as motion pictures show how a mob robs the dead bodies of the Shiites killed in clashes, a debasement that tells a sour story of the decadence in the country.
The Dangers Ahead
The Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III has warned President Muhammadu Buhari and his government over the killings in Zaria.
Abubakar III said at a time Nigeria is facing serious problems, the least expected is a conflict between the military and the Shiites.
There are fears that while the federal government is intensifying efforts to oust the dreaded Boko Haram sect, the killing of the Shiites might be breeding a new sect that will carry on with the insurgency, when the jihadists in the northeastern part of Nigeria are annihilated.
It would be recalled that in July 2009, Boko Haram’s leader was summarily executed, and that fueled a breeding insurgency which led to a mass prison break in September 2010, and was accompanied by increasingly sophisticated attacks.
Ibrahim Khalil Zarkawi, the leader of the sect as of the time, in a dialogue with RFI, said that the sect’s attacks were based on the fact that the police killed their brothers.
Though the Boko Haram movement founded by Mohammed Yusuf is diffuse, and fighters associated with it do not necessarily follow Salafi doctrine and have denounced the members of the Sufi, Shiite, and Izala sects as infidels, still there is no ruling out the fact that the Shiites might take their grievances with the authorities to a greater height, even in alliance with the embattled Islamist.
There are fears that the same excuse of their brothers being killed by the authorities could be tendered by the Shiites, if the current clash is not nipped at the bud and given all the attention it deserves.
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In a related development, the agitators for Biafra have also faulted the Nigerian army’s role in the attack at Zaria, they are of the opinion that the military was brutal and inconsiderate of the people.
According to a Radio Biafra statement, the killed Shiites were unarmed; hence, it was not a case of self-defence, but one of "cold-blooded murder", an argument which supports the agitator’s course for the actualization of the Biafra Republic.
The death toll in Zaria has reportedly risen to hundred, a figure that should give the Nigerian government very great concern.
Shiite faithfuls, just like Biafra agitators, have started protests in certain states within the northeast; injustice, marginalization and many other biases are becoming themes.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state has urged the people to remain calm and preserve peace following the December 12 clash. In an interview with Channels TV he assured the public that the situation had been brought under control.
As of the time, the protests are still calm and peaceful, but only time will tell whether or not more blood will be spilled to avenge the slain.