The Nigerian Army and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria Saturday have accused each other of instigating attacks that led to the death of members of the movement on Saturday.
While the Army is accusing the Shiite followers of attempting to assassinate Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, the Islamic movement said soldiers simply decided to attack “defenseless people”.
A statement by the Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, said Shite members barricaded the road Mr. Buratai’s motorcade was passing to pay homage on the Emir of Zazzau, and also attend a review parade by 73 Regular Recruit Intake at the Nigerian Army Depot in Zaria.
“The sect numbering hundreds carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres,” he said.
Mr. Usman also said the Shite members “refused all entreaties to disperse and then started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects”.
He said the barricade was obviously a deliberate attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff and members of his entourage.
“The troops responsible for the safety and security of the Chief of Army Staff on hearing explosion and firing were left with no choice than to defend him and the convoy at all cost as well as open up the barricaded road for law abiding citizens,” he said.
“This is in line with the Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct. This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated from any individual or groups and should not be allowed to repeat itself,” the statement said.
The army said the sect carried out the attempt on Mr. Buratai’s life on the instructions of Ibrahim El-zakzaky, the leader of the Shiite group.
The Shiites, however, denied Mr. Usman’s claims.
A statement signed by Isak K and posted on the website of the movement said the claim that the COAS “narrowly escaped assassination as a result of attack from Muslim brothers and Sisters of the Islamic Movement is a blatant lie”.
The statement said Mr. Usman’s claim “raises series of questions in the mind of right thinking people”.
It said members of the movement who were unarmed were gathered for a ceremony at their Husainiyyah base, to change the flag on the dome of the building to herald the beginning of the month of Rabiul /Auwal- the birth month of the Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad.
“Any excuse given by the military as reason for besieging Hussainiyyah and firing for hours, leading to the death of yet to be specified number of people, is considered a lie of the decade,” the movement said.
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter in Kaduna said a member of the sect who asked not to be named for security reasons informed him that 20 members of the movement may have been killed, while many others were arrested.
He said soldiers opened fire on the sect members after the convoy of the Army Chief had passed.
“After the COAS passed, an army re-enforcement was deployed, shooting indiscriminately, killing over 20 of our members, taking away some of the dead bodies and arresting many of our members including women,” he said.
Meanwhile, the commissioner of police in charge of Kaduna state, Umar Ambursa, when contacted by telephone, said he was on his way to Zaria with the state governor Nasir El-Rufai to ascertain the extent of the incident.
“I am on my way with the governor to Zaria. Will brief you later,” he said.
The governor’s spokesperson, Samuel Aruwan, also said he was in the governor’s convoy and would only comment after getting the details of the incident.