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18 Dec 2018

New York Times obtains video showing Nigerian Army killing unarmed Shiites

American-based newspaper, New York Times, says it has obtained a new video showing soldiers killing unarmed Shiites protesting the prolonged detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky.

The Nigerian Army had admitted killing six members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria along the Abuja-Zuba Expressway between October 27 and October 29, 2018.

The army had said the Shiites who were armed with stones and petrol bombs had attacked troops of Army Headquarters Garrison on official duty, escorting ammunition and missiles from Abuja to Army Central Ammunition Depot in Kaduna State.

However, New York Times said a video which it had obtained showed that the soldiers shot at civilians who were fleeing the scene.

The report reads, “But a close review of video from the largest and most deadly of the protests, as well as interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, clearly shows the military opening fire on unarmed demonstrators, sometimes shooting indiscriminately into the crowd at close range as people turned and tried to flee.

“Photos and videos recorded that day show at least 26 bodies. The group said it had collected a total of 49 bodies during four days of protests.

“The killings are the latest example of a military that for years has been accused of human rights abuses, with rarely any punishment or action taken, despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s promises to crack down on military violations and restore security in the country.”

According to New York Times, some of the corpses had bullet wounds at the back, indicating that they were shot while fleeing.

“But the video from the march clearly contradicts those claims. The melee began that day as more than 1,000 marchers approached a military checkpoint. Soldiers arrived to block off the road. An armoured vehicle with high-calibre weapons patrolled the highway. After soldiers began to fire, they targeted protesters fleeing the chaos. Many of the injured were shot in the back or legs,”it reported.

The newspaper noted that the killing of Shiite marchers six weeks ago generated little outrage in the country as neither Buhari nor members of the opposition condemned the killings.

The president’s “turn-a-blind-eye approach has bolstered the military’s culture of impunity,” said Matthew Page, a former top expert on Nigeria for the State Department.

“Nigerians’ growing frustration with insecurity — whether it be kidnapping, armed robbery, communal violence or terrorist attacks — outweighs the disgust they feel about human rights abuses by security forces,” he said.

Brig. Gen. John Agim, the spokesman for the Nigerian military, said soldiers had abused no one during the recent marches. He said he had not seen video of the events but was certain that whatever existed had been manipulated to make Nigerian soldiers look bad, calling it “stage managed.”

The protesters from the group generally “cause a lot of disruption,” he said. “They destroy other people’s cars. They block the traffic.”

“When they attack the military, what do you expect soldiers to do?” he said, adding that the military had retrieved weapons from protesters, including knives and homemade firebombs. “Of course, there will be a necessary course of action.”

Amnesty International disputed the military’s statements, saying its allegations against marchers were an attempt to justify unlawful killings. The military’s actions appear to violate international laws, according to Human Rights Watch, which said that Nigerian officials had a pattern of repressing the Shiite group.

Muhammed Sani said he had watched soldiers shoot to death one of his brothers, who had attended the Oct. 29 protest with him, and later learned that another brother had also been killed. He said he had lost friends that day, too.

“Our protests are peaceful, but they kill us anyway,” he said.

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria, founded about four decades ago and inspired by the Iranian Revolution, has been repeatedly labelled a terrorist threat. In the city of Kaduna, where many of the members live, the group is barred from protesting or assembling. Its places of worship, schools and community centres have been demolished by officials who say the group wants to spark a Shiite revolution and could turn to terrorism.

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