Zeenat, the wife of the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim Zakzaky, and Aliy, Mr. Zakzaky’s son, were among the scores of people killed during a siege on the sect’s enclave by the Nigerian Army on Saturday, the group has said.
Three of Mr. Zakzaky’s sons had been killed in a similar attack by the Nigerian Army in July 2014.
The sect insists that its members did not attack the convoy of the Chief of Army staff, Tukur Buratai, as alleged by the Nigerian Army.
Several persons were killed Saturday afternoon after soldiers opened fire on members of the sect, who they said put up barricades and blocked the road to be used by the Army chief.
The Army also reportedly returned to the sect’s enclave known as Husainiyyah and the residence of Mr. Zakzaky late in the evening. A fresh encounter there led to the death of the immediate members of Mr. Zakzaky’s family and others in the house at the time.
The movement in a statement by Ibrahim Musa, head of its Media Forum, said apart from Mr. Zakzaky’s son and wife, other prominent leaders of the group were also killed.
“In the mean time, leading members of the Islamic Movement and other members as well, have been killed by the soldiers including the leader of the Kano Center, Muhammad Turi, Mustapha Sa’eed, Ibrahim Usman and Jummai Gilima.
“The sporadic killings took place at three different locations that include the residence of the revered leader of the Movement at Gyallesu, the Husainiyya Bakiyatullah at the GRA and the Darur Rahma located along Zaria-Jos road where many armless people were killed.
“The killing was so brutal at Gyallesu that even those injured in the shooting were identified and killed in cold blood by the soldiers. And as at the time of writing this press release, the victims run into their hundreds, if not thousands.
“Considering the gross violation of fundamental human rights and extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the Nigerian Army, the Islamic Movement hereby condemns these unjustifiable acts.
“We state categorically that the claim by the Army that Members of the Movement attempted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff was a blatant lie as the army came back to launch their attack more than an hour after the COAS had passed.
“Clearly, the Nigerian government through its military is now on rampage, in an all out war with the Islamic movement, its members and structures.
“The scale of this attack would suggest it was meticulously planned by authorities and now being executed ruthlessly. The alleged attack on COAS Burutai was just an alibi.
“Therefore, with all pointers at the government as the contractor of the killings, we hereby call on well meaning Nigerians and the international community to intervene and seek redress for the victims and their family members as many innocent people have unjustifiably been killed and many others severely injured,” the statement said.
It also said after the onslaught on Mr. Zakzaky’s residence on Saturday, it does not know his whereabouts.
Why we laid siege
On its part, the Nigerian Army has stated its version of what led to Saturday’s violence describing the clashes between its troops and followers of Mr. Zakzaky as “most unfortunate”.
The spokesperson of the Army, Sani Usman, in a statement on Sunday said although the Nigerian constitution guarantees the rights of any group of persons including members of the Islamic Movement to hold a peaceful march or procession unhindered, it also guarantees other people’s rights of way on public highways.
“It is important to note that over the years this group has subjected ordinary citizens using public roads to untold hardship, delays, threats and disruption simply because they insist on using public space irrespective of inconvenience and hardship on other law abiding citizens and motorists. This cannot be tolerated and must stop,” he said.
Mr. Usman, who did not comment on the number of people killed or arrested, said as soon as order is restored in Zaria and its environs, the police will conduct an enquiry and the public will be informed.
“In the meantime, the public is advised to go about their lawful business and report any suspicious persons or incidents to the police,” he said.
While the Islamic Movement said it was unaware of the whereabouts of its leader, and the Army kept mum about him, the Kaduna State Governor has said he knows where Mr. Zakzaky is.
Governor, Nasir El-Rufai said he visited Zaria where he met with the Army Chief, Buratai, and he spoke to the leader of the sect, Sheikh Zakzaky.
He said he appealed for calm and peace.
The governor in a statement by his spokesperson, Samuel Aruwan, said “the situation is calm and security has been beefed up in Zaria.”