Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has released a report accusing the Nigerian soldiers of killing 34 defenceless peaceful members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Zaria between July 25 and 26, Premium Times informs.
According to the report, the members of the group, led by prominent Islamic cleric, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, were murdered while they were marching along the streets of Zaria in Kaduna State. Besides, more than 100 others were injured.
The report consists of the interviews with victims, their families and witnesses.
The IHRC fact-finding team states that report has unimpeachable evidence to prove that many of those arrested died in military custody, unable to withstand the brutality they were subjected to by the soldiers.
How did it happen?
On July 25 the followers of Sheikh El-Zakzaky embarked on the traditional procession held in support of the Palestinian Cause.
Trouble started after soldiers confronted volunteers managing traffic on the criteria they were using to give priority pass to cars. According to the report, despite allowing the truck they were in to pass, the soldiers started shooting at the protesters.
The report notes that then the soldiers sped off, went around the block of shops and cut off a large group who were at the tail end of the procession from the main body. They took positions near these shops and started to shoot at the crowd.
“There seemed to be no obvious danger to the soldiers as they took no precautions against being attacked. They were not seeking protection behind objects, no wearing helmets and were walking directly towards the crowd while shooting,” the report says.
According to the report, stewards and traffic volunteers tried to place themselves between the soldiers and the crowd and also to rescue those who were lying injured on the road and many of them were instantly shot.
“According to a testimony by the family of 20-year-old student, Ridwan Musa, who was killed in the shooting, he stood between the soldiers and a group of women the soldiers had taken aim at and challenged them as to why they were shooting at unarmed civilians. Mr. Musa was shot in the head and he died immediately.
“Julius Anyanwu, a 68-year-old Christian man, was shot and disembowelled as he sought to know why the soldiers were shooting unarmed civilians. He died before arrival at the hospital. In an adjacent shop, a Christian woman was shot and injured as she sought shelter in the shop she worked in. A number of stray bullets tore through the front of the shop and into her hands and chest. IHRC obtained pictures showing damage done to shops and other property.
“One of the victims recounted that she had been in the area begging for food. When the shooting started she dived for cover as she was unable to run away. A soldier approached her, shot her in her good leg and walked away. Her leg had to be amputated.”
The report says that all those interviewed stated the soldiers did not issue any warnings.
According to a farmer who was wounded in the attack, soldiers chased people into his farm and shot at them. He said he saw another soldier who took position in his sugarcane field, shooting those who ran to the field for cover.
Death of El-Zakzaky’s 3 sons
El-Zakzaky’s three biological sons, Mahmud, Ahmad and Hamid were killed in the attack. A fourth son of the cleric, Ali, was shot in the leg. He survived. One of those interviewed also explained in detail how the three sons of Sheikh El-Zakzaky were killed.
“The trio were chanting songs while lying on the ground as the shooting became intense. According to the witness, soldiers did not stop shooting, so Hamid and Ahmad decided to get away but Ali remained on the ground.
“As the soldiers approached, Ali screamed and one of the soldiers shot him in the leg. The narrator said the soldier also pointed his gun at him and was going to shoot, but he grabbed the gun and was wrestling with the armed man when another soldier shot him in the leg.”
He and Ali were dragged to the side of the road where they saw Hamid and Ahmad being shot by soldiers. “They were shot twice in the back and once in the leg,” the report said. While all these were happening, Mahmud had been shot and his body left on the street for volunteers to retrieve.
Ali, Ahmad and Hamid and others who were injured were piled on top of one another in the back of a truck and driven to the Chindit Barracks.
The soldiers were not allowed into the Chindit Barracks so they turned and headed to the Basawa Barracks that are five kilometres away. At the Basawa Barracks, a senior military officer, on seeing how injured the victims were, ordered that they should be put in an ambulance and taken to the Teaching Hospital in Shika, the report said.
But the commander of the unit that arrested them, S.O Oku, a Lieutenant Colonel, stopped the ambulance at the gate of the barracks and ordered that they should be put on the ground.
“The soldiers were also insulting and taunting their captives, and every time they said something Ali, who is only 15, would respond with a comment. One of the soldiers decided to attack him for his response and went to hit him, at which point Hamid tried to shield Ali with his own body. Hamid was hit on the head twice with the butt of a rifle. That was the last time anyone heard Hamid speak or move. Ali mentioned that he saw Hamid’s eyes rolling and he died soon afterwards.”
By the time they were taken to the hospital, Ahmad’s body has started to get cold while Hamid’s body was already stiff. They both were dead.
The report said that not satisfied with the bloodbath of the previous day, soldiers in three trucks approached a gathering of sympathisers outside the Husainiyyah Baqiyyatullah, the resident of the sect leader, and started shooting at the crowd without any warning. Two people were killed and seven others were injured in the attack.
IHRC said the police were not involved in the incident of July 25 and refused to take the captive from the army. It also added that the fact that senior military officers were not aware of the attack indicated that it was a special operation carried out by a select few.