Zaria Clash: Army Says Shi’ite Leader, Wife And Family Members Are Safe And Protected
The Kaduna General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Mechanized Army Division, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade, has confirmed the arrest of Ibraheem Zakzaky, leader of the Shi’ite, an Islamic Movement in Nigeria, his wife and other family members, saying, “they are in a safe and protective custody.”
It was alleged that, during the Sunday clash between members of the group and the Nigerian Army the whereabouts of the leader was unknown, while his wife and son were reportedly killed.
Oyebade in company of the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Umar Shehu, made the confirmation while briefing newsmen in Kaduna on Monday on the incidence that happened in Zaria between Saturday and Sunday. He said, the Islamic leader and his family members are being kept in a secure facility and soon, he will be allowed to speak with his followers.
According to him, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant Tukur Buratai, was in Zaria for the Passing-out Parade of the recruit in Deport of the Nigerian Army and also decided to pay homage on the Emir of Zazzau, when members of the sect led by El-Zakzaky blocked the road, ‘Sokoto road to be precise.’
He said, “We found out that it was unusual, but because we thought that they were being overzealous, two senior officers in the Chief of Army Staffs’ convoy came down from their vehicles appealing to these hoodlums to please clear the road so that he can go ahead with his scheduled program.
“All entreaties, appeals to this Shi’ite sect members numbering in their hundreds refused to budge. It got to the point that they started throwing dangerous missiles, stones, machete and all kinds of traditional or crude weapons, I would say, on the his convoy.”
He further pointed out that, they felt it was pre-meditated and the life of their boss was under threat, but had no other option than to force their way through the blockage, including the use of lethal weapons, which he said is allowed within the rules of engagement.
The GOC added that, when he got to Zaria, he had a report that the Shi’ite members where mobilizing across Zaria in their various enclaves and shrines, which he decided to use the forces available to put the situation under control.
“My initial orders to the security agencies were just to keep everywhere cool and calm but little did we know that we were in for the bloody night. As you all know, the Shi’ite members numbered in their thousands and they were mobilizing and attacking security forces across Zaria.
“Because of the report we had that they are mobilizing at their three key strong points, including the big temple called the Hussaniyya, the area occupied by the sect leader in Gyellesu, and another temple somewhere on Danbo road, I decided that I have to bring the situation under control by securing those three sites.
On the number of casualties, he said, “We are not in counting business and so I cannot tell you the exact number of casualties among both parties. But the issue remains that, there are casualties from both sides.”
He said that the Nigerian army has nothing against the sect and their leadership, adding that the soldiers’ duty is to protect all, while calling on the sect members and residents of Zaria to go about their normal businesses.
“I want to send a message across all the Shi’ite members across the length and breadth of Nigeria, especially in North-West zone under my charge; I urge them to keep the peace, be law abiding, not to offer violence to members of the security forces, and to go about their activities peacefully,” he said.
Responding to the question if the sect had requested for security permit, the Kaduna state commissioner of Police, Umar Shehu, said, the sect over many years have been taking laws into their hands and have never requested for any security during their protest. He added that, “we will not deny anyone to practice his religion – be it Islam, Christianity, or Pagan – but it must be done under the confines of the law.”