*Death toll hits 1,000, says sect spokesman
*El-Zakzaky, wife in our custody
By Henry Umoru, Luka Binniyat, Joseph Erunke & Mayen Etim
ABUJA—CHIEF of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said yesterday it was by divine intervention that he escaped being assassinated on Saturday, by members of the Shiites Muslim sect.
The sect on its part claimed that at least one thousand of its members had been killed and that soldiers had evacuated their bodies following the weekend clash between its members and the military.
The Nigerian Army also said “the leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife are in the custody of the Nigerian Army, “safe and sound” in a secured and protective custody.”
The army boss said contrary to claim that members of the Shiites group were not armed, they were not only heavily armed but also violently confronted him and his convoy on his way to Zaria.
The Army chief spoke to newsmen at the National Assembly complex, shortly after attending an interactive meeting called by the Senate Committee on Defence, for service chiefs.
“You want to know how I escaped? It was by the will of God that I was able to escape from the place,”he said, while advising citizens to be law abiding wherever they are.
Insisting that the group was violent, Buratai stressed: “ I think NTA was there and they aired the clip, it was very clear . They were violent and the clip is there.”
Meanwhile, the sect spokesman, Ibrahim Musa said. “We have reports that bodies of our members killed outside the house of our leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky are being evacuated in trucks by soldiers and our leader was arrested this morning (yesterday) in his demolished home by soldiers where he had been holed up in a room that was spared from the fire that gutted the house from grenades.”
Ibrahim Musa, in a statement he issued in Kaduna alleged that the army was not only selectively killing its members yesterday, but it had instigated the public to join in the killings.
The Nigeria Police, and Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) were mute yesterday over the claims.
El-Zakzaky, wife in our custody — Army
The Nigerian Army said yesterday that the leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife are in its custody “safe and sound” in a secured and protective custody,
Addressing a late evening press conference yesterday, the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 1 Division of Nigerian Army, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade said the order given to the troops was to ensure that the sect leader was taken into a safe custody and as at 09:15am he was brought into the custody the Army with his wife and some family members.
The GOC further said that the sect leader would soon be allowed access to his members.
General Oyebade added that in the course of operation there were casualties on both sides, but did not mention the number of casualties.
He said: “On December 12, 2015, myself and the Commissioner of Police were with President Muhammadu Buhari who was in the state for an assignment when I received a distress call that the life of the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was threatened by some hoodlums who blocked his way on Sokoto road in Zaria city.
“After much persuasions from senior officers on the entourage, the hoodlums who were later identified as Shi’ites members remain adamant and in line with our rules of engagement, we have no option but to clear the road for the COAS and in the course of doing that, the hoodlums started throwing missiles on us; and our men responded which resulted to minimum casualties.
“From there we received information that they have started mobilizing in one of their temples at Husainiyya, the resident of the leader at Gyellesu and on Dambo road. That was on Saturday night, this lead to a long night of battle.
“We have nothing against the Shi’ites because they’re all Nigerians and our duty is also to protect them. But we cannot tolerate them forming a government within a government. I call on all shi’ites members to be law abiding and go about their religious activities without tampering with the freedom of others,” he said.
In its own statement, Shiite said: “Following the brutal attack on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria by the Nigerian Army in Zaria where scores have been extra-judicially killed, we wish to state as follows: “A source has confirmed that the Army has taken the revered leader of the Movement, Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) from his house this morning and is receiving treatment for injuries he sustained during the attack.
“About a thousand of members of the Movement have been massacred at the moment as counting continues, but the soldiers are now busy evacuating the dead bodies to unknown destination.
“There are hundreds of others that have received various degrees of injuries that are in need of assistance that have currently been denied access by the soldiers on ground who are in a killing spree, shooting anyone identified as a member of the Movement.
“The army is deliberately exploiting religious sectarian sentiment to instigate uninformed public, some of whom are now busy killing innocent and unarmed members of the Movement at sight using local weapons.
”The Army is at present dressing corpses of members of the Movement with their military attire and snapping still pictures to probably display them as soldiers killed by the Movement during the attack as a means of propaganda, whereas it was solely an attack by the army on armless citizens.”
“The army has also stationed road blocks in Zaria picking out innocent unarmed people that look like members of the Movement and killing them in cold block. Even today they put an army road block in Zaria to Kaduna highway near Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, searching for any member of the Islamic Movement. The most weird of many of such cases is that of an army road block at Dogarawa near Zaria where they killed thirty of our members traveling to Zaria yesterday Sunday.
“We wish to state here that some of those earlier declared dead through various sources might not have been killed but might be severely injured and in need of assistance.
“In connection with the above mentioned, we wish to declare as follows:
“Members of the Movement should be allowed immediate access to Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) as a means of taming the the situation from aggravating unnecessarily.
“We believe that the army is clearing the corpses to unknown locations for mass burials to cover up for it’s crime. We hereby demand unequivocally that they should release the corpses to us, so that we can give them a proper Islamic burial. The people they killed are not foreigners, they are citizens with their relatives known.
“The Army should stop the unnecessary stage management of the whole incident making it look like what it is not through false and provocative press statements, incitements and ground activities which might not augur well for everyone.
“Access to health facilities should immediately be allowed to those injured anywhere in Zaria.
“We believe that this incident is planned and executed by the government which has been looking the other way while the army was killing members of the Movement for a period of over 27 hours from Saturday on without any statement and is still quiet as the army continues with its killing spree.
“The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is a peaceful and unarmed Movement with members in every cadre of the society that are entitled to every rights enjoyed by every other Nigerian, including religious rights, whose fundamental rights have been trampled upon by the government in its claim to be fighting against violent extremism, but instead spreading violence and hatred using state machinery.
“Finally, as the Army continues its genocide on members of the Movement, with support of the government, we hereby call on peace lovers and the international community to join us in condemning the act for it is virtually ridiculous to think that the government can kill the millions of members of the Movement”.
Meanwhile, Vanguard findings showed that normalcy has returned to the affected parts of Zaria town and government offices, markets, shops and other business activities as well as bus town services had commenced.
But Banks in Zaria remained under lock and key.
“We are grateful things are gradually coming back to shape,” said Makama Sani, to our reporter on phone.
“As I am taking to you now I am just from PZ area, I went round Sabongari and came back to Tudun Wada area,” he said.