Another devastating violence has broken out in Karu, a densely populated suburb of the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Witnesses told PREMIUM TIMES at least 16 people have been killed and scores wounded after Shiite protesters attempted to break a barricade of Nigerian soldiers around the flyover in Karu.
While some of the deceased died after being rammed by cars driven by panic drivers, most of them were hit by Nigerian soldiers’ bullets, which they reportedly rained on the protesters and passersby indiscriminately, witnesses said.
“They have killed about 16 to 22 people,” a witness in the neighbourhood told PREMIUM TIMES Monday evening. “Bodies are everywhere, they are everywhere without anyone even attempting to evacuate them.”
The witness said soldiers were responsible for most of the deaths, attributing only about four to persons rammed by speeding vehicles or an elderly woman who fell and hit her head against the median while scampering for safety.
“Yes, the soldiers were killing the people, they said they wanted to break their barricade near the overhead bridge in Karu,” another witness told PREMIUM TIMES separately. “I cannot say how many people were killed, but they are so many and bodies still on the main road and streets.”
The witness also said the protesters were not armed with guns and live ammunition, saying “only the soldiers were carrying guns.”
The first witness told PREMIUM TIMES about three dead bodies that were taken to a Muslim burial ground in Karu were rejected because they were suspected as being Shiite members.
“They were taken there to bury as Muslims, but the people in charge said they cannot be buried because they were not Muslims, they were Shiites,” the witness said.
Videos showing bodies of some of the protesters allegedly shot by soldiers have been circulated on the Internet, although PREMIUM TIMES has not independently verified their authenticity.
Witnesses said the entire Karu axis has been on lock down since 4:00 p.m. after the violence broke out. Residents in the area are now finding it difficult to return home after closing from their workplaces in downtown Abuja, including even those who closed since 2:00 p.m.
It remained unclear when normalcy would return to the area.
The killings come two days after Nigerian soldiers opened fire during a Shiite procession in Zuba, another suburb of Abuja, on Saturday afternoon.
The military denied being the aggressor in the violence, which left nearly a dozen protesters dead. The Army said its personnel conveying military equipment were waylaid by the Shiites, during which some soldiers were brutalised with stones and sharp objects. No soldier was killed during the encounter.
The Nigerian Army and Defence Headquarters did not immediately return PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments about the latest killings in Karu on Monday night.
Nigerian security agencies have consistently clashed with Shiite members since December 2015 when hundreds of Islamic Movement of Nigeria members were massacred by Nigerian soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State.
A judicial panel which investigated the killings indicted Adeniyi Oyebade, a major-general, and other military officers for their role in the large-scale murder of at least 347 IMN faithful. Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, leader of the IMN who was arrested following the 2015 killings of his members, has been held in custody ever since, despite repeated court orders for his immediate release.
The military denies wrongdoing in the massacre, which is currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court for potential prosecution.