Nigerian Shi’ites on Saturday fought back, dismissing the claim by the Nigerian Army of complying with rules of engagement in the Zaria stand-off that reportedly resulted in the death of over 300 members of the sect.
The General Officer Commanding 1 Mechanized Division of the Nigerian Army Kaduna, Major-General Adeniyi Oyebade, had in a statement claimed that the Army under his command acted according to the Rules of Engagement while cracking down on the Shi’ites in their Zaria stronghold on December 12.
But yesterday, a statement by Ibrahim Musa, President of the Media Forum of the Islamic Movement, described the GOC’s claim as a “move to justify the crime of the army in attacking armless civilians using a quack Civil Society Organisation called the Human Right Non-Violent Initiative, all in effort to bury the crime.”
According to Musa, “The Islamic Movement sees his claim as a cheap way of misleading the public on the inhuman way the Army treated members of the Islamic Movement using unnecessary maximum force on armless people including women and children.
“There is no such thing as a militant wing of the Islamic Movement called Hurras as he claimed, as it is already known to all, including international human rights organisations, that the Movement is not armed hence, it is highly ridiculous for him to make such a claim.”
Musa added: “More so, the bulldozing of our buildings which they did exposed the lie that we carry arms, because no weapons were found with us.
“In his first press briefing announcing that the Army had abducted the revered leader of the Islamic Movement, Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky, the GOC stated that it was only one of his men that was injured with a shot from catapult but none was killed, but in contradiction, he is now saying that his soldier was killed and many others were injured.
“We are aware that the Nigerian Army rule of Engagement does not permit any officer to be found aiding or abetting any act of arson, vandalism or unprofessional conduct, but contrary to this, the Army indiscriminately killed armless civilians, invited thugs to steal possessions of corpses of members of the Movement and assisted them in killing injured persons and even mutilating their dead bodies.”
Continuing, the Shi’ites media chief said: “There are videos taken by the thugs themselves to buttress our claim. Is it the acts of these thugs that the Army invited that the GOC is describing as the support and prayer for the Army from people of Zaria for freeing them from bondage?
“Certainly it is not part of the rule of engagement to use life ammunitions, grenades and Armored Personnel Carriers on armless civilians, killing them indiscriminately and also going round killing severely injured persons after the attack, nor is it part of the rule of engagement to abduct civilians and torture them with fire, but with certainty, all of these were done by his soldiers.
“The GOC’s invitation of people to Zaria to see for themselves has since been answered by international human rights organisations who have gone and saw for themselves and have issued reports indicting the Nigerian Army for using unnecessary maximum force on armless civilians and have since made their reports public.
“And instead of the GOC to waste his time listening to the hungry people who visited him, he should have answered the call of Human rights organisation that demanded to hear from him but he refused to listen to them. He should have told the public how many mass graves they dug to bury corpses of members of the Islamic Movement in order to hide their crimes against humanity.”