Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, says he escaped the violence allegedly perpetrated by members of the Shi’ia sect by “the will of God”. The convoy of the number one army officer in the country was said to have been attacked in Zaria, Kaduna state, on Saturday, while he was on his way to the palace of the emir Zazzau. In a chat with reporters after appearing before the senate committee on defence, Buratai said the Shiite members were violent. Responding to a question on how he escaped unhurt, he said:
“You want to know how I escaped? It was by the will of God that I was able to escape from that place. “I think NTA was there and they aired the clip, it was very clear. They were violent. Definitely this is very clear. The clips are there. That was what happened.” On its part, the sect has denied attacking the army chief, accusing soldiers of killing its members.
“The claim that the COAS narrowly escaped assassination as a result of attack from Muslim brothers and Sisters of the Islamic Movement is a blatant lie,” Isak K, a spokesman for the group, had said on Saturday. “The claim raises series of questions in the mind of right thinking people. Members of the movement who were unarmed were gathered for a ceremony at their Husainiyyah base, to change the flag on the dome of the building to herald the beginning of the month of Rabiul/Auwal- the birth month of the Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad.
“Any excuse given by the military as reason for besieging Hussainiyyah and firing for hours, leading to the death of yet to be specified number of people, is considered a lie of the decade.” Ibrahim El-Zakzay, leader of the group, is reportedly in military custody, while the headquarters of the movement in Nigeria has been destroyed. Meanwhile, the army has sent a petition to the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), explaining its own side of the incident. In the letter dated: December 14, signed by F.U Mijinyawa on behalf of Buratai, the military claimed that over 500 members of the sect attacked the army chief.
The letter said the Shiites barricaded the road where the convoy of Buratai was passing and the protesters intended using “petrol bomb” to attack the convoy. “Sequel to the above, about seven of the members of the group were shot dead and the COAS directed that the 10 wounded be evacuated to the Depot NA Medical Centre for treatment while all exhibit items such as swords, knives, cell phones are recovered from the scene,” the letter read.