Today (July 25) marks exactly four years since the Nigerian Army started the systematic attack on the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, with a trademark attack specifically targetting the children of the Sheikh after a peaceful Quds Procession. The viscious attack resulted in the death of three of seven sons of Sheikh Zakzaky at the time, along with over thirty other members of the Islamic Movement. In commemmoration of that brutal state-sponsored terror attack, we reflect on the series of events that kickstarted what has now been known to be the begining of a well-orchestrated plot to wipe out the Islamic Movement, its leadership and structures in Nigeria.
Military brutal attacks on members of the Islamic Movement in Zaria, July 25, 2014.
A group of soldiers led by one Lt. Col. Oku opened fire at members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria on 25th of July 2014 while the later were in a peaceful procession in solidarity with the oppressed people Palestine, and again the following day 26th July, killing at least 34 and wounding well over a hundred others.
The Annual procession tagged Qud’s Day is a day set aside for a show of solidarity with the Palestinians and all other oppressed people of the World. It holds yearly on the last Friday of the Holy month of Ramadan of the Islamic calendar. It was so declared by the late Revolutionary leader, Ayyatullah Ruhullah Mosawi Khomeini. It has since become an international event, with processions marking the day across the World, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, across Europe, Americas, Asia and Africa. Here in Nigeria, the procession had held annually for the past 32 years consecutively. Initially, it was held only in Zaria but as participants geometrically grew in numbers, it was decentralised. As a result, for the past few years in Nigeria, the processions have been carried out in various towns and cities across the country. This year the processions were simultaneously held in at least 24 towns across Nigeria. It was only in Zaria that the peaceful procession however was targeted and brutally attacked.
This was not the first attack on the Qud’s day procession in Zaria or Nigeria. As far back as 1998, the procession was attacked by Police as the procession came to a close at the Tudun Wada Mosque Zaria. Then, one lady called Halima Umar was killed. In 2009, the procession in Zaria was attacked by policemen around the Kofar Doka area. AbdulRahaman Isa Adepoju and Muhammad Musa Jaji were killed. In 2002 the Qud’s procession in Kano was attacked by policemen and as a result six men were killed. They were Isa Ashiru, Saadu Usman, Abubakar Isa, Mu’azu Lawal, Isa Zakariyya and Abubakar Uba. But by far, this was the most vicious attack yet by the state security forces on Qud’s procession in Nigeria.
There were signs that the security forces were plotting something sinister. The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky had variously been targeted for attack either as he went for one function or the other outside his home. These attempts were either foiled or they out rightly failed. In the Holy month of Ramadan, it was quite obvious that these attempts were escalated. References were made to these by Shaikh Zakzaky in his public speeches and sermons. Although attempts at hitting the Shaikh were unsuccessful, apparently they had laid the foundation to hit the movement in the most devastating ways yet, and where it hurts.
Zaria Quds Procession 2014
This year’s procession commenced as usual about 2:00pm from the Sabon Gari Juma’at mosque after the Friday prayers. It marched through the central area of the town and by about 4:00pm, the head of the procession had reached the termination point at the Eid praying ground around Kofar Doka. However, the tail end of the procession was yet at PZ area because of the mammoth turnout and participation. Participants consisted of men, women, young and old. Even the physically handicapped were in the procession. Some were in vehicles or on bikes and motor cycles as most were on foot. They were in rows and columns for ease of mass crowd control. They chanted slogans, waved flags and held banners with inscriptions depicting the purpose of the march. As they went through the town, people had come out to watch with admiration. There were great signs of organization; after every other column had passed, they would stop the march to allow people and vehicles passage at junctions and crossings. They had a unit that took care of those with health challenges during the march, including ambulance to pick those who could no longer continue with the procession. The procession was completely peaceful.
The Brutal attack by the Military:
As the procession was being brought to an end with a closing prayer at the Eid praying ground, news filtered in that soldiers had opened fire at the tail of the procession and there were casualties. The tail of the procession was yet around the PZ area about 3km away from the termination point. The shootings had continued and even also targeted those who were returning from the procession after it had been brought to a close. Soldiers had also laid ambush at a sugarcane plantation around the Kubanni area and shot indiscriminately at people returning from the march. By that time, several had either been killed or fatally wounded. Many others were arrested and hauled into military trucks and driven away. Among the early casualties was Mahmoud Zakzaky who was shot by Lt. Col. Oku in the abdomen and pelvis. His corpse was left by the roadside as they sought to shoot and arrest many more. It was confirmed by those arrested at the time that Mahmoud Zakzaky was identified by someone in mufti as Zakzaky’s son before he was shot on the spot. Yet others were shot and killed.
The corpse of Mahmoud Zakzaky was retrieved along with some few others, but among those taken away alive by the soldiers were 3 other children of Shaikh Zakzaky – Ahmad, Hameed and Ali.
Military torture and murder of the captives:
Those taken away by the military were initially taken to Chindit Barracks, where according to those that survived the ordeal, they were refused entry. Thus, they decided to drive them to Basawa barracks. During the trip, the soldiers beat them, stamped on their gunshot wounds with their boots and taunted them. At the barracks, they dumped them on the ground adjacent to the clinic. Lt. Col. Oku then asked them who the children of Shaikh Zakzaky were. They identified themselves, and were separated from the others. Their handsets were confiscated at that point and were shot by him. He left them with the other soldiers and went to bring more. In the meantime, the soldiers had continued to torture and taunt them. They told them that when they get their father, that would be the treatment they would mete out on him. No attention was given to their bleeding and painful wounds.
A senior military officer who came to pass by the place asked who they were. He was told by the soldiers that they were “Shiites who were fomenting trouble in town”. He ordered them to take them to the hospital, seeing that they were bleeding profusely. They loaded them into their trucks and made their way towards the gate, but were met at the gate by Lt. Col. Oku, who ordered them to be brought down again. By that time, it was getting dark. So military trucks and some Hillock vehicles’ headlamps were used to illuminate the place as the soldiers snapped pictures and captured video of their victims. It was only then that he said they should be taken to the Teaching Hospital in Shika. He however told the soldiers to make sure they were dead before arrival. They were stacked one above the other in the military vehicle. Ahmad Zakzaky was gasping and was placed below his brother, Ali. Each time Ali tried to move so his brother could breathe, he was stamped on by the soldiers, who continued the torture of their captives. In one such instance, Hameed raised his hand to protect Ali from the brutal blow by a soldier. He was tortured himself until he gave the ghost. By that time Ahmad was also dead.
By the time they arrived at the hospital about 4 to 5 hours after their arrest, 11 people were dead including 2 of Shaikh Zakzaky’s children, one was unconscious while 4 others had very fatal injuries. Apart from the gunshot wounds, there were obvious signs of torture all over.
To be continued