The Nigerian army’s bloodbath in Zaria

Developing Just Leadership

Tahir Mahmoud

Rabi' al-Awwal 20, 1437 2016-01-01

News & Analysis

by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 11, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1437)

By killing more than 1,000 (perhaps as many as 6,000) members of the Islamic movement in Zaria, the Nigerian army has proved, if proof indeed were needed, that it is an agent of Zionism and imperialism.

What is the problem with “Muslim” armies? Notwithstanding their self-serving claims to greatness and military prowess, there are hardly any that can point to even minor successes against external enemies. They consume enormous amounts of state resources and regularly storm the corridors of power to grab the reins of government claiming to do a better job than their civilian counterparts. After messing up state institutions for a decade or more they hand over power to civilian clowns (in some countries like Egypt, one military dictator takes over from another) and this cycle of musclemen and clowns taking turns continues. The result is that Muslim societies remain mired in poverty, corruption and mismanagement.

The only area where the Muslim armies excel in is in killing large numbers of their own people. Here is a quick checklist: Indonesia (1966, more than 500,000 civilians were murdered); Iran (1978, some 80,000 civilians murdered); Algeria (1992–1995, an estimated 350,000 civilians murdered); Egypt (2013, some 6,000–8,000 civilians murdered in two days); and now Nigeria (2015, an estimated 6,000 civilians murdered in a single day). Given their dismal performance on the battlefield and their gory record against civilians, is it not appropriate to ask whether Muslim countries need armies at all?

Let us not detain ourselves with the question of who or what would replace these armies. Suffice it to say that guerrilla forces tend to do a much better job of protecting their country’s interests and have consistently given a better account of themselves with limited resources than regular armies against invading armies. This brings us to the issue of the December 12–13 massacre of civilians in Zaria, Nigeria.

What possible motive could there be for the Nigerian army’s massacre of thousands of innocent Muslims in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna? The army’s attack on the headquarters of Shaykh Ibrahim Zakzaky’s group, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria resulted in the death of more than 6,000 people, among them hundreds of women and children.

The Nigerian military put out a scandalously misleading statement about the massacre in an attempt to cover up its crime. Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, Acting Director Army Public Relations, accused members of the Islamic Movement of staging an assassination attempt on the life of the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai around noon on December 12. The colonel claimed the army chief’s convoy was attacked. If so, it seems incredible that not one soldier was injured much less killed, yet thousands of Islamic Movement members were shot and killed.

Why would the Islamic Movement want to kill the army chief and what benefit would it get from carrying out such an attack? The movement is completely unarmed; even the army has not alleged that a bomb or any explosive device was used to kill the army chief who was passing near the movement’s headquarters. Even if the allegation of the assassination attempt is correct, does it justify the killing of such a large number of people?

The Islamic Movement’s spokesman Ibrahim Musa revealed that “the killings took place at three different locations that included the residence of the leader of the Movement at Gyallesu, the Husainiyya Baqiyatullah at the GRA, and the Darur Rahma located along Zaria-Jos Road where many [unarmed] people were killed.” Following the initial army attack near the highway where the military chief’s convoy was passing, the army moved to the movement’s headquarters. The army had brought in tanks and used them to demolish buildings and kill people.

As if their blood lust (for whatever reason) was not satiated, the army then launched an attack on the home of Shaykh Zakzaky late in the evening of December 12. It lasted more than 11 hours. Even the women and children were not spared. The army shot them dead. “The killing was so brutal at Gyallesu [home of Sheikh Zakzaky] that even those injured in the shooting were identified and killed in cold blood by the soldiers,” according to Musa.

Shaykh Zakzaky was shot four times in his arms as was his wife Zeenat. His son Hamad was shot and killed. Other prominent members of the Islamic Movement murdered by the trigger-happy Nigerian soldiers included Shaykh Muhammad Turi (deputy of Shaykh Zakzaky), Mustapha Sa‘eed and a leading female member, Jummai Gilima. When photographs of Shaykh Zakzaky appeared, almost certainly taken from a hidden cell phone, he was seen bleeding profusely. Not only his arms were covered in blood but his face was also bleeding. His eyes were swollen clearly indicating that soldiers had punched and kicked him.

To humiliate him further, the army then brought a wheelbarrow, dumped him into it, and carted him away to military barracks. The army initially admitted that he is in their custody as is his wife but members of the Islamic Movement are greatly worried about his safety. Later the army said he had been shifted to a hospital and later still announced that he had been handed over to the police. Nobody — whether from his family or members of the Islamic Movement — has been allowed to see him. Worries for his safety are real because the army is notorious for killing people in its custody.

In its report about the Nigerian military’s conduct against people in its custody, Amnesty International reported on June 3, 2015, that more than 7,000 men and boys had died in military custody during its fight against Boko Haram over the last four years. The total number arrested by the military exceeds more than 20,000 people, the rights group said. The Nigerian military has had (or prevented?) little success against the Boko Haram terrorists. Instead, its wrath has been directed against totally peaceful and unarmed groups like the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.

It is revealing that President Muhammadu Buhari who was elected in early 2015 has remained mum about the mass killings of innocent people. As a former army general who staged a coup in the 1980s, his sympathies are clearly with the army. Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria were shot and killed in other cities as well. After remaining silent for several days, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, issued a misleading statement in which he not only accused the Islamic Movement of acting illegally but also tried to sugarcoat the military’s crimes.

We must, however, return to the question of why the army attacked the Islamic Movement in such a brutal manner and why so many people were murdered? The imperialists and Zionists have their sights on Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. It is also an oil rich country but the thieving elites pilfer most of the wealth. This is especially so in the north of the country where the city of Zaria is located.

The Zionists have made deep inroads into Nigeria developing close links with the military. Visits by civil and military officials to each others’ countries are frequent. The Zionist military has had a profound impact on the Nigerian military. There is little doubt that the Zionists have taught the Nigerian army the murderous tactics that the Zionists have honed over many decades against defenceless Palestinians.

This is not dissimilar to the close links the Zionists have with the Egyptian military. The massacre perpetrated by the Nigerian army has striking parallels with what the Egyptian army did against peaceful demonstrations in Cairo in August 2013. The brutes in uniform in Egypt also carried out a bloodbath of innocent civilians. The Nigerian army has simply repeated that bloodbath against the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.

Why did the Nigerian army indulge in this war crime and crimes against humanity? The Islamic Movement in Nigeria was creating awareness among people about their rights and urged them to speak out to demand such rights. This is something the military would not tolerate because in due course, the people would have risen up. By then it would have been difficult for the army to kill all the people.

Thus, it decided to strike now by using a false pretext. It is interesting to note that the Nigerian army has not been able to fight the Boko Haram terrorists that follow the same ideology as the takfiri terrorists in Syria and Iraq, yet it used its massive firepower against unarmed Muslims whose only “crime”was to demand their basic rights.

The Boko Haram terrorists have repeatedly attacked members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. The regime’s security forces have provided no protection to the Islamic Movement yet its firepower and bulldozers are used for destroying the Islamic Movement and its institutions.

Shaykh Maher Hamoud, the respected “Sunni” Lebanese alim made the perceptive observation that in order to get the Arabs to fight Israel, tell them the Israelis have become “Shi‘is.” This could be extended to Nigeria as well. Shaykh Zakzaky and members of his movement are Shi‘is. In fact, his centre in Zaria serves a number of West African countries as well and his strength and popularity are growing. This was seen as a threat to the elites’, especially the military’s, interests as well as to the imperialists and Zionists. A spokesman for the Islamic Movement reported that the Nigerian army bulldozed the headquarters of Shaykh Zakzaky on December 20.

It needs recalling that in Nigeria, the Quds Day rallies are held in at least 25 cities and millions of people participate in them every year. This was viewed with alarm by the military as well as the civilian rulers of Nigeria and their Zionist masters. In August 2014, the Nigerian army shot and killed scores of Islamic Movement members during the Quds Day rally. Three of Shaykh Zakzaky’s sons were among the 85 people martyred on that occasion. Now he has lost his fourth and last son in addition to sustaining injuries himself as well as his wife being injured.

The Nigerian army is clearly doing Israel’s dirty work. We cannot expect any Western do-gooders (human rights organizations) to condemn such crimes. The contrast between the amount of media coverage given to the November Paris attacks that resulted in 132 deaths and the December attacks in Zaria, Nigeria that caused more than 6,000 deaths is striking. Are the lives of Nigerian Muslims less important than those of the French citizens? Is it because the Nigerians are Muslims and black while the Frenchmen were white?

When Muhammad Buhari, a retired army general, was elected president of Nigeria early last year, it aroused hope among many people both inside and outside Nigeria that the military’s excesses would come to an end. Unfortunately as the latest horrific episode shows, this is not the case. Little can be expected from the Nigerian government unless there is a full United Nations inquiry into this crime and the International Criminal Court (ICC) is involved. If the Nigerian army chief general Tukur Buratai is hauled before the ICC, only then can there be some hope for an end to such brutal killings.

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