- IMN claims 20 members slain
- Buhari condemns bomb attack, condoles with families of victims
It was a bloody day in several states in Northern Nigeria wednesday, as eight members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), also known as the Shiite or Shi’a sect, were reportedly killed across Katsina, Kaduna and Sokoto States, when irate mobs attacked members of the sect during their procession in the states to celebrate the Islamic New Year.
The attacks coincided with a suicide bombing along a highway in Borno State, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, resulting in the death of eight persons with several others sustaining injuries.
However, the spokesman of the Shiite sect, Mr. Ibrahim Musa, has put the death toll of members of the sect at 20, alleging that they were killed by a combined team of security forces and those it described as hoodlums.
In Katsina, three Shiite members were killed, in Kaduna four lost their lives, while in Sokoto one was also slain. In addition, several vehicles and properties were either burnt or vandalised during the attacks on the sect.
The attacks came a day after a standoff between soldiers and members of the group, outlawed last week by the Kaduna State Government.
Worshippers had gathered to commemorate the historical events associated with the Islamic month of Muharram that are particularly significant in the Shiite calendar, UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission had said on Tuesday in a statement.
But the gathering was encircled by armed troops. The standoff ended later in the night after the troops withdrew.
The military action on Tuesday was reminiscent of the run-up to the massacre last December of hundreds of supporters of IMN by the Nigerian Army and the arrest of its leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who remains in government custody.
In the Muslim-dominated area of Tudun Wada in the Kaduna metropolis, yesterday’s attack allegedly started when irate youths descended on the Shiites.
The angry mob was also said to have demolished the Islamic school belonging to the sect in the area.
The residence of one Muktar, said to be a leader of the Shiites, was also set ablaze. However, the timely arrival of men of the fire service put out the fire.
The mob was said to have descended on members of the sect with sticks, machetes, knives, stones and other weapons, injuring many of them.
Confirming the incident in a telephone interview, the spokesman for the Kaduna State Police Command, Aliuyu Usman, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), denied claims that the police were involved in the attack.
He said by the time the police arrived the area, the killings had already taken place.
He however said police were observing the situation, adding that everything was being done to enforce law and order.
News of the incident sent shivers down the spines of residents of Kaduna, who have witnessed countless incidents of deadly ethno-religious clashes in the past.
Some traders at the Kaduna central market were said to have closed their shops for fear of the unknown.
In Katsina, the state Police Command confirmed yesterday that three Shiite members were killed, while two policemen sustained injuries when members of the sect attempted to attack the area command of the police in Funtua town during their procession.
The state Police Commissioner, Mr. Usman Abdullahi, told reporters in Funtua, when he visited the town, that the police also arrested 46 members of the sect during the incident.
He said the Shiites confronted the police area command in the town with the aim of attacking those on duty, adding that the police repelled the attack and fired several canisters of teargas into the air to disperse them.
Abdullahi said the Shiites also took away the corpse of one of the three dead persons, while police discovered two dead bodies after the incident and some weapons.
The commissioner said the police recovered different types of weapons from the sect members, including five dane guns, cutlasses, sticks and other dangerous weapons.
In Sokoto, some unidentified hoodlums were reported to have killed a young man believed to be a member of the Shiite sect at the Tudun Wada area of the state capital, Sokoto.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammad Abdulkadir, confirmed the incident to journalists during a press briefing at the police headquarters in Sokoto.
Abdulkadir explained that the deceased came from Kebbi State and was heading to the procession in another part of the metropolis when the hoodlums attacked him at Tudun Wada.
He disclosed that as a result of the attack, the Shiite member slumped and died while his Toyota car, with registration number BRK 144CM, was set ablaze by the rampaging hoodlums.
The commissioner further said that members of the sect also burnt three motorcycles after the procession.
“In fact, while members of the sect were returning to their respective destinations, after the procession, some of them engaged members of the public in a violent confrontation at Tamaje area of the metropolis.
“Three motorcycles belonging to sect members were burnt and one person was arrested with a cutlass,” he said.
He said the command had embarked on an investigation with a view to unravelling those behind the attaks.
Abdulkadir advised residents in the state to go about their normal businesses without fear, saying the command had taken adequate measures to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the state.
Although no death was recorded in Kano, members of the sect also encountered an angry mob in the largest metropolis in the North, leading to many sustaining machetes wounds, as they were violently attacked when they came out for the procession in defiance of a police order.
The incident occurred yesterday at 1.10 p.m. at the abbatoir area of Kofar Mazugal, en route to the Abdullahi Bayero mosque, popularly known as Fagge Mosque, when the angry youths tried to divert the Shiites away from the mosque where they normally converged before going round the Kano metropolis during their processions.
When THISDAY visited the scene of the incident, it was gathered that some angry youths came out with dangerous weapons, including machetes, sticks and knives, in order to attack the Shiite members who on sighting the mob took to their heels.
It was also observed that armed policemen were deployed in all nooks and crannies of the state and were also present at the mosque which they barricaded.
The prompt intervention of the policemen deployed to the area prevented what could have been a deadly clash between the sect members and the angry youths.
Police spokesman in Kano, Magaji Musa Majia, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said that the incident happened around the abattoir area when members of the sect blocked some schools and markets around the place.
“Some members of the public stoned and attacked them but we had to rescue some of their women, children and the aged. We rescued between 40 and 50 persons to safe custody,” he explained.
Majia said there was no casualty during the incident, adding that the command took proactive measures to maintain law and order.
The police in Kano had issued several warnings prohibiting all forms of religious processions in the city, which the Shiites flouted, leading to the confrontation that was nipped in the bud by the police before violence erupted in the city.
Also, residents of Anguwan Rogo community in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State wednesday burnt down a structure allegedly used for worship by the Shiites.
The incident, it was gathered, followed the annual procession by the sect.
Eyewitnesses said most of the residents who attacked the Shiites belong to a gang or group called Yan Daba, which vandalised the structure before setting it on fire.
When contacted, the military task force in charge of security in Jos, said through its media and information officer, Captain Ikedichi Iweha, that the attack was a “community mob action”, but added that men of the task force were able to put out the fire.
He said security agents were moved into the Anguwan Rogo, Gangare, Katako and Anguwan Rimi communities in the state, to prevent molestation and a breakdown of law and order.
IMN Puts Death Toll at 20
Reacting to the attacks on the sect in several states, the sect’s spokesman claimed that over 20 of it members were killed while commemorating the 10th Muharram, 1438 (Ashura) in major cities across the country.
Musa, in a statement yesterday, said Shiite members were attacked by a combined team of security forces and others dressed as hoodlums, as well as paid thugs escorting them, resulting in at least 13 deaths in Funtua, Sokoto and Kaduna.
Musa said the procession of the martyrdom of Imam Husain started in Funtua, Katsina State peacefully, but was later stopped by a team of policemen who were drafted to the scene to forcibly stop the march.
He claimed that after firing teargas canisters at the procession, the police opened fire with live bullets, killing nine instantly and injuring about 20 others, adding that “there are reports that they went with some victims”.
He said: “In Kaduna, the peaceful Ashura procession was concluded without any incident. However, armed paid thugs attacked some members of IMN on their way to their various homes injuring them.
“This was followed by the torching of Islamic Centre of IMN at Tudun Wada, Kaduna, and subsequent demolition by a combined team of policemen and the army. Three members of the movement were killed there.
“The story was similar in Jos, Plateau State, where armed soldiers brutally attacked the Ashura procession, then proceeded to invade the Islamic Centre belonging to IMN, making some arrests while threatening to demolish the worship complex.”
Musa also stated that peaceful Ashura processions were conducted in Katsina, Yola, Potiskum, Suleja, Bauchi, Gombe, Lafia and Kano, among other towns.
In Kano, he said, the police arrested some Muslim sisters of IMN on their way to their various homes.
Musa claimed that those arrested have been taken to Bompai police headquarters, Kano. He also said that a number of arrests were made in Kaduna and were arraigned before the Shariah Court on Daura Road.
Car Bomb Kills Eight
In an unrelated incident, no fewer than eight persons were also killed and 15 wounded when a car bomb, believed to be the handiwork of Boko Haram, hit a convoy on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
The explosion went off yesterday morning at Muna garage, as the convoy, with a military escort was going to Gamboru Ngala.
Five persons were inside the taxi hit by the bomber. A witness said he saw 10 corpses at the scene of the explosion, but a source at the Maiduguri Specialist Hospital said that no fewer than 18 bodies were deposited in the hospital morgue with more being expected.
A statement by the spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Sani Datti, made available to journalists yesterday, however, said eight persons lost their lives, with 15 others injured.
Datti said: “A total of eight persons lost their lives and 15 were injured in the explosion that occurred early this (Wednesday) morning at Muna motor park, Maiduguri, Borno State.
“The rescue team of the National Emergency Management Agency promptly responded to the incident and evacuated injured persons and the bodies of the dead victims to University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital and Borno State Specialist Hospital.
“The explosion occurred outside the park, located on the outskirts of the town and is used by motorists that carry passengers to the Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala axis of the state.
“The Injured persons taken to the hospitals are currently being attended. Security has been beefed up at the scene of the explosion.”
The Public Relations Officer of the Borno State Police Command, Mr. Victor Isuku, said five persons died, while five others sustained injuries.
Cars in Borno State often travel in convoys organised by the military to minimise the risk of Boko Haram ambushes in rural areas. The army has retaken most of the territory initially lost to the terrorists, but Boko Haram still stages suicide bombing attacks and plants roadside bombs.
Buhari Condoles with Families of Victims
President Muhammadu Buhari, in a swift reaction to the early morning bomb blast, said he was disheartened by the news, adding that the incident had further strengthened his administration’s resolve to completely neutralise Boko Haram.
Buhari, who stated this on his twitter handle, described the attack as a cowardly act on soft targets.
While sending his condolences to the families of the victims, the president said he was disheartened by the news of the blast.
He said: “I am disheartened by the news of the bomb blast in Maiduguri. My condolences to the families of the victims and the Borno State Government.
“Unable to hold territory, the severely degraded terrorist group now occasionally resorts to cowardly attacks on soft targets.
“I commend our military for their unflagging efforts. This attack has further strengthened our resolve to completely neutralise Boko Haram.”