Albani Zaria and his wife were shot as they drove home after his usual evening sermon.
A well-regarded Islamic preacher in Zaria, Kaduna state, Sheikh Muhamman Auwal Albani Zaria, and one of his wives were on Saturday night murdered by unknown gunmen as they drove home after the cleric’s usual Taksfir lecture.
His son was also caught in the cross fire.
A resident of the city, Abdullahi Barau, told PREMIUM TIMES the cleric was shot around the Gaskiya Area of the city, where he has a school, shortly before 10 p.m.
Mr. Barau said the cleric’s wife died on the spot while Sheikh Albani Zaria was rushed to the nearby St. Luke’s Hospital where he was declared dead.
A colleague of the late Mr. Albani Zaria, Abbas Isa, told the Hausa service of the Voice of America that the late cleric’s car was blocked by the assailants who opened fire on the car.
Thousands of people are gathered in the town and the funeral rites of the slain cleric and his wife is in progress, residents say.
It is not clear why the cleric was targeted. The spokesperson of the Kaduna state Command of the police, Aminu Lawan, could not be reached for comments. His telephone was switched off the several times PREMIUM TIMES called on Sunday morning.
When contacted, the state Police Commissioner, Olufemi Adenaike, simply said, “call me later, call me later” after our reporter put his question.
Mr. Albani Zaria is a well-regarded Islamic cleric in his Zaria base as well as in the entire Kaduna state, and even beyond.
The cleric was a controversial preacher who belonged to the Salafi school of thought which believes in the strict observance of the Quran and Sunnah (way of life of Prophet Muhammad).
He was arrested by authorities in 2010 on suspicion of engaging in terrorism activities. However, his disciples went to court and challenged the charges. He was later freed by the court.
Those who know him well said he is known for delivering fiery and radical sermons and was merely incarcerated at the time for his preaching.
Until his death, he was the leader of the Islamic Salafiyya movement.