At least a dozen followers of Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky have already been killed and many more wounded trying to prevent soldiers from taking up positions around the home.
Currently two tanks are stationed outside the house where the Sheikh is besieged along with his family. In telephone calls to the IHRC the Sheikh seems resigned to his fate and has already bid farewell to supporters fearing that the house will be blown up.
One of Sheikh Zakzaky’s deputies has already been killed.
The assault on Zakzaky began yesterday morning when soldiers opened fire at mourners attending a funeral in Zaria at Hussainiyyah Baqiyatullah. The funeral was for Muslims killed the day before in violence attributed to Boko Haram, but which many in the area claim has connections with elements of the military. Reports say approximately 30 people died in that incident.
Following that shooting spree the armed forces then fanned out to other locations associated with the Islamic Movement including the Sheikh’s home.Â
IHRC believes there is no truth to official Nigerian claims that had reportedly fired on and stopped the convoy of the Nigeriaís Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai moving through the area. This appears to be an attempt to spin what is essentially an ongoing attempt to snuff out Zakzaky and his movement. Last year three sons of the Sheikh were targeted and killed by armed forces during and after an Al-Quds Day march in Zaria.
According to eyewitnesses who have spoken with IHRC, the army attacks are too well organised and planned to be a response to a threat to the general. Photographs from the scene show soldiers kneeling down in a field and firing at protestors in a way that suggests they were not under attack in any way.
As news of the army attacks spread, people in cities all over Nigeria took to the streets to demand a halt to the killings. In London human rights activists held an impromptu demonstration outside the Nigerian embassy.
The Islamic Movement has mass support across Nigeria and is renowned as a peaceful group that has never been implicated in any violence. It is strongly opposed to Boko Haram.
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