The Shi’ite group, led by Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, has stated that the December 12 and 13 attack on its members by soldiers of the Nigerian Army was deliberate and planned.
More than 300 members of the sect are believed to have been killed in the Zaria attack, which the army initially described as an assassination attempt on the Chief of Army Staff, Turkur Buratai, a General.
The military later released an edited video showing a group of angry youth with sticks and cutlasses arguing with some army brass over the right of way for the convoy of Mr Buratai.
Human Right Watch described the killing as a “terrible carnage” and “unjustifiable”.
Daniel Bekele, the African director of Human Rights Watch said: “The Nigerian military’s version of events does not stack up”.
The whereabout of the sect’s leader, Mr. Zakzaky, who was reportedly shot four times during the attack, is still unknown.
The Kaduna State government said it would set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the killing.
In an apparent move to counter the military’s narrative, the Shi’ite group posted a video on YouTube purportedly showing the attack.
The narrator of the 22:36-minute edited video, which is delivered in Hausa but subtitled in English, said the attack on the sect was unprovoked.
He said the sect members were preparing for the change of the Maulud flag when they saw soldiers stationing themselves near a NNPC filling station directly opposite the sect’s enclave, Husainiyya, and dropping boxes of ammunition.
The narrator explained that the military lied when it claimed that Mr. Buratai’s convoy was denied the right of way. He said in the past, soldiers and military convoys passed through their processions and gatherings unhindered.
He said the sect only approached Mr. Buratai’s convoy to tell the soldiers to move further away with their weapon to avoid an occurrence of the 2014 incident where a traffic argument with a group of soldiers led to the killing of 34 members of the sect, among them three sons of Mr Zakzaky.
“We asked them to move forward with their weapons due to the 2014 incident where 34 members were killed,” the narrator said.
The narrator claimed instead soldiers spread themselves out around the nearby polo ground encircling the Husainiyya as if in a war front. The narrator alleged that it was at the point of trying to placate the soldiers that the soldiers started firing on them.
PREMIUM TIMES could not independently verify the footage which was apparently shot with a mobile phone, but soldiers with assault rifles could be clearly seen encircling the Husainiyya and taking shooting positions.
Sounds of intermittent gunfire could be heard as the sect members laid on their stomachs and other hid behind trees to avoid being hit by bullets. Some of the youth could be heard screaming Allahu Akbar, Arabic for God is great.
The narrator explained that the Shi’ite members ran to the Husainiyya for refuge from bullets.
The footage later showed soldiers dragging the bodies of those shot into a truck. The narrator claimed the soldiers took the bodies away.
The footage later switched to an audio clip of a telephone interview in Hausa purportedly on Radio Iran between a broadcaster and a man who claimed to be among the soldiers who took part in the operation on the day.
The radio station said they would not reveal the name of the soldier for security reasons.
The caller, who claimed to have shot over 500 bullet in the air during the operation, said the army lied by blaming the clash on argument over right of way. His statement was subtitled in near broken English:
“I’m among those who carried out the operation. I want to lay an introduction before I say what I want to say. What I know, every army is using the rule of engagement. I want to correct what somebody has said this is why I want to comment.
“Like what the Emir of Kano said that Nigeria was established on ahul sunna wal jama’a, is that not? We army defend Nigeria and in Nigeria there are Izala, Shi’a and Christians, in the Nigerian Army, to say the fact. And what is happening, our leaders are disgracing us by saying our leader was denied a road. It is not that it may cause to underrate our security.
“It can’t be possible even for the Emir of Zazzau (another name for Zaria) to follow a road without knowing what is happening on the road talk less of our leader in General to have… This is not true. Our stand is more than that.
“As he himself, as Malam voice was heard saying there are some of us chanting: “Ya Husain Ya Husain” I’m one of them.
“The fact about this is that it was a plan. Planned since.
“If I die Allah will charge. Neither Buhari nor Buratai will protect me. It is Allah that will charge me on what I have accounted. And remaining on what we have done. I’m seeking the forgiveness of Allah. As a matter of fact, this work is do or die. Because of that by the time we came an order was given, then an order was given that everybody should go out. The fact Allah is my witness. I shot in the air. I shot nobody. Allah is my witness, no Shi’ite blood on me,” he said.
When asked by the broadcaster if there are other soldiers like him who do not agree with what the army said happened in Zaria, the man responded in the affirmative.
“What has encouraged me was that there was somebody at Farfaru who wrote on Facebook. It is not only me. I myself I know I shot nobody. 500 bullets in the air, Allah is my witness. I shot nobody. And the weapons that were used, the fact that we have been in Maiduguri, we have been there the weapons have not been used in Maiduguri. What I’m saying is if you come to a place as said by the emir of Kano, there is a time for whip there is time for teargas, there is time for bullet and there is time for bomb. We seek people’s forgiveness especially me,” he said.
The video subsequently showed soldiers matching beside an armoured vehicle and spreading out in military formations around the Husainiyya. Many of them were seen lying flat on their stomach with their guns pointed toward the Hussainiyya.
The video also showed some youth inside the Hussainiyya hiding behind the pillar of the fence while voices were here screaming Allahu Akbar.
The entire area was deserted. No civilian could be seen inside or around a NNPC filling station opposite the Husainiyya. Motorcycles laid abandoned on the roadside.
On the orders of a man that appeared like a senior military officer, some soldiers went down on one knee while others laid on their stomach assuming shooting positions.
The soldiers surrounded the area in a manner that suggested they didn’t want any of those hiding inside the Hussainiyya to leave.