Sporadic clashes between Shi’ites and Security Forces in Nigeria dates back to the 1980s. But many Shi’ite residents of the northern city of Zaria, where bulldozers leveled the compound of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky say the tensions has never been worse.Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky’s compound and some ‘holy sites’ were pulled down after three days of clashes between the army and Shi’ite residents in December.
Human Rights groups say hundreds of Shi’ites were killed in the clash. The Army will not give the exact death toll and this is said to be fuelling intense anger among the residents.
Muhammadu Samaru, a Shi’ite religious leader, said “This anger cuts across from the leadership, to all the members, anyone you ask will tell you that he is very angry.”
This anger cuts across from the leadership, to all the members, anyone you ask will tell you that he is very angry
Human Rights Watch estimates some 3 million people belong to the sect, a religious and political movement inspired by Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Army officers told Reuters members of the sect attacked the soldiers with guns, machetes, petrol and swords.
“We only have problems with those violent extremists amongst them who should be brought to justice and who should be caged. There are many moderate Shi’ites. In the military there are Shi’ite officers and soldiers,” Army General Adeniyi Oyebade said.
President Buhari launched an investigation into clash saying the death of civilians can not be justified.
An Activist and lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa warned the violence could spawn into a radical Shi’ite militant wing.
“The military is part of the government, I do not think that it is proper to ask the government to investigate his own army because in most cases the outcome of the report will be biased and in favour of the government. So we demand an independent judicial commission of inquiry,” Adegboruwa said.