At least three people were killed when Nigerian soldiers and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria Saturday clashed in Kaduna on Saturday.
Zeenah Ibrahim, wife of a Shiite leader, said dozens of people were wounded in an attack by soldiers that began late Saturday at her home in the northern Nigerian town of Zaria.
While the Nigerian Army accused the Shiite group of attempting to assassinate Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Sheik Ibrahim El-Zaky-Zaky-led sect said soldiers unleashed an unprovoked attack to eliminate the cleric.
A statement by Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, said Shiite members barricaded the road Buratai’s convoy 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.
According to the statement, “The sect numbering hundreds carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres. They refused all entreaties to disperse and then started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects.
“The barricade was obviously a deliberate attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff and members of his entourage while on a legitimate official assignment as special guest of honour at the passing out parade which has earlier been widely publicised.”
Usman said the troops on the convoy of the Army Chief were left with no other choice than to defend him and the convoy and to open up the barricaded road.
“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. 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, Usman said.
The Shiites, however, countered the statement, accusing Usman of lying.
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 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 Hussainiyyah 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.
Another statement credited to Ibrahim Usman on behalf of the sect said “Our leader did not order the killing of the COAS. It is a lie; a blatant lie. We were supposed to have a programme at that time. We always ensure a free-flow of traffic. Even when the shooting started, the COAS had already gone. So, Army’s claim that Sheik Ibrahim El-Zaky-Zaky ordered members to kill the COAS is a lie.”
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria two weeks ago suffered a suicide bombing claimed by Boko Haram extremists that killed 22 people.
El-Zaky-Zaky preaches peaceful reform in Nigeria.