Nigeria: 49 Shiites killed in attacks by the army
Human rights activists demand independent investigations, warning that ruthlessness will lead to even more violence (Press Release)
Following the violent death of 49 Shiites in Nigeria, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns about a further escalation of violence between the security forces and the Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). This week, 49 members of the religious minority got killed – which is why the human rights organization is demanding independent investigations into arbitrary attacks by soldiers. "If the Nigerian army is not willing to follow the rule of law, the country is threatened with a new Islamist revolt. The terrorist movement Boko Haram was formed under similar conditions," warned Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Friday in Göttingen. In December 2015, the army had committed a downright massacre against IMN supporters in Zaria (Kaduna State), killing 348 Shi'a.
The recent outbreak of violence occurred after IMN supporters had gathered in the capital city Abuja between last Saturday and this Tuesday, demanding the release of their imprisoned leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. According to eyewitness reports, soldiers and police forces had opened fire with live ammunition. So far, the army has only acknowledged the deaths of six IMN supporters. "The fact that IMN is planning to establish a Shiite theocracy is very problematic – but that doesn't justify shooting protesters," Delius criticized.
El-Zakzaky had been arrested during the massacre in Zaria, together with his wife. Three of his sons were killed in the bloodbath. Although the Supreme Court had decided that he should be released (in December 2016), El-Zakzaky is still in detention. He is accused of trying to establish a criminal organization and of manslaughter.
Those responsible for the massacre in Zaria were never held accountable, even though a commission of inquiry (established by the Kaduna government) had come to the conclusion that the army was to blame for the violent deaths of the Muslims. Using similar methods, including extrajudicial executions, the security forces are also trying to crush the independence movement in the Christian region of Biafra.
There are about three million Shiites living in Nigeria, most of them Sunni Muslims. Around 50 percent of the country's 185 million inhabitants are Muslims.
Header image: Jbdodane via Flickr