Army, Zakzaky Group Bicker Over Alleged Attack Near Abuja

Ibrahim el-ZakzakyThe Nigerian Army yesterday debunked allegations that soldiers attacked the convoy of leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky, along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway on Sunday.
The movement had alleged in a statement credited to one Ibrahim Usman that heavily armed soldiers attacked the convoy of its leader, who was on his way to Abuja for the Quds International Conference.
The statement alleged that an unidentified Hilux van parked by the road side at the Jere-Kagoro Junction had trailed the convoy on entry, while another moved in front and was overtaken by the convoy.
“The vehicle engaged the convoy in a senseless race, specifically aiming at the car in which Sheikh Zakzaky was seated, up to the check point at the War College at Bwari. At the check point, the soldiers who were already on full alert took strategic positions with guns and demanded that all occupants of the vehicles step out and be checked. When the head of the convoy demanded identification and what their mission was, the already charged soldiers would not listen despite several attempts to dialogue, but threatened to shoot.
“When all appeals failed, the Sheikh’s convoy proceeded but was vigorously pursued by the combined reinforcement of armed soldiers threatening to shoot. Not satisfied, the soldiers were reinforced and intercepted the Sheikh’s convoy again but were dodged, while some cars were badly damaged. The unprovoked action of the soldiers is laced with insidious intent capable of disrupting the peace, and an insult on a man of God whose peaceful conduct was testified and acclaimed the world over.
“We will not to be intimated…. While we strongly condemn that act as barbaric, uncouth and uncivilized, we cannot succumb to pressure and unreasonable scrutiny from the same soldiers that have been after the life of our revered Sheikh on daily basis since the killing of his three children and followers. As a lawful citizen, Sheikh Zakzaky has all the rights and privileges to move about with his people anywhere, and conduct his activities without the slightest interrogation or hindrance, followers of the Sheikh also have the right to give him maximum protection to the best of their ability”, he said.
But speaking on behalf of the Army, Colonel Sani Usman described the allegation as baseless, unfounded and capable of misleading the public.
“For the avoidance of doubt”, he said, “At about 10.00am (Sunday) along Abuja-Kaduna road, soldiers sighted a convoy of six cars passing through a military checkpoint and when asked to stop, they vehemently refused. Their refusal made the unit concerned to activate various patrols into action with a view to establishing their identity, destination and motive. Consequently, they were pursued by activated patrols because they refused to heed the directive to stop and be searched at the check point manned by troops between Jere and Bwari. When they finally met up with them, the troops behaved politely, professionally and maturely despite obvious taunting and provocation otherwise they would have opened fire on them. It is instructive to note that they refused to heed all entreaties. When they were finally stopped, their language and conduct was far from civil, yet the soldiers, conscious of their duties and responsibilities, maintained dignified silence and having ascertained their identity, they were allowed to proceed to their intended destination”.
Col. Usman, who is Director, Army-Public Relations, said no one was intimidated or molested as alleged and appealed to all well-meaning Nigerians to be conscious of the security situation in the country and cooperate fully with security agencies in events of this nature.
“Nobody is above the law. Contrary to the usual insinuation by them, the Nigerian Army wishes all Nigerians well and will continue to sacrifice their lives for the defence of this great nation”, he added.

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