Shiíte Killings: We acted appropriately against agents of anarchy – Army chief
The Chief Of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai has said that his soldiers acted within the framework of their constitutional duty when they killed over a hundred members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria also known as the Shiíte sect.
Buratai said this wihlst testifying before a judicial commission of inquiry headed by Justice Muhammed Lawal Garba. The panel was set up by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir elRufai to look into the massacre, following a global outcry by Shiites worldwide as well as human rights organizations.
In his testimony, Buratai also stated that the Shiítes were agents of anarchy.
More of his testimony goes thus: “The circumstances leading to the incident of December 12 have been articulated by the officers involved. I was in the convoy. It was my convoy, the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff.
“I left Dutse that morning, hoping to arrive Zaria in time, to attend the passing out parade of the 73 regular recruits. But the convoy was blocked when we entered Zaria. What transpired has been documented by the officers with me. They have also made their statements. They are here to give full account of what transpired. We are here because we respect human rights. We are here because we know the sanctity of human life, which we have sworn to protect.
“One of our constitutional roles is to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria, which also includes the totality of the protection of human rights and indeed, the property of every Nigerian. We have laid down our lives as army officers and soldiers over the years in the course of performing our constitutional roles. There is no way we will pick our weapons and deliberatively violate the rights of the people, which we have been paid to defend and protect. This is quite fundamental. We have constitutional responsibility. Drawn from that constitutional responsibility, we also have our rules and regulations. And drawn from that we have a duty to perform in restoring peace and order where such peace and order are being disturbed. So, we followed our rules of engagement, which are derived from the laws. The Army is a very respectable organisation.
“We are alive to our responsibilities. In doing so, we will not tolerate a situation where, individuals, in the name of human rights, continue to violate the rights of others and then turn back and accuse highly responsible organisations, such as the Army of human rights abuse. I believe those organisations crying against what the military has been doing are not being sincere. They can be termed agents of anarchy. They don’t want law and order to prevail in the society, ” he said.
However HRW, a human rights agency is not buying the Army’s version of events.
“The Nigerian military’s version of events does not stack up,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It is almost impossible to see how a roadblock by angry young men could justify the killings of hundreds of people. At best it was a brutal overreaction and at worst it was a planned attack on the minority Shia group.”
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria is a Shia sect with close ties to Iran based in Zaria, Kaduna state. It began in the 1980s and is led by Sheik Zakzaky, who was inspired by Iran’s revolutionary movement when he traveled there. The sect has an estimated 3 million followers spread across Nigeria. It is separate from Boko Haram, a radical Islamic group also operating in northern Nigeria, whose members have attacked Shia and others.