Nigerian Military Kill Shiite Group Leader Turi After Attackby
Wife and son of spiritual leader El-Zakzaky also killed
Shiite group is a minority in mainly Suni northern region
Nigeria’s military killed a leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement group in the northern city of Zaria on Sunday after the armed forces said members of the sect tried to assassinate the chief of army staff.
Muhammad Turi was killed by the military during an attack on his group’s followers in the Gellesu area of Zaria in northern Kaduna state, Ali Mohammed, an Islamic Movement member and associate of Turi’s, said by phone.
The wife and son of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the Shiite group’s spiritual leader, were also killed during the confrontation in his compound and his whereabouts remain unknown, Ibrahim Musa, another official, said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.
The assault happened after the army accused the Shiite group of barricading the road as the convoy of Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai traveled in the region and Islamic Movement members attempted to assassinate him. The group denied the allegation and said an unspecified number of people were killed by the military.
“The sect numbering hundreds carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres,” Colonel Sani Usman, an army spokesman, said in a statement. “The troops responsible for the safety and security of the chief of army staff on hearing explosions and firing were left with no choice than to defend him and the convoy at all costs as well as open up the barricaded road.”
While Nigeria’s military has been focused on the fight against Sunni Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the northeast, Islamic Movement’s relationship with the armed forces has “always been terrible,” Francois Conradie, an analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC African Economics, said in a research note.
The group is armed and has links with Iran’s government and Hezbollah and has occasionally classed with Sunnis in the northern Nigerian states of Kaduna and Sokoto, Conradie said.
“There has been no declaration on the government’s part that it intends to destroy the IM as it has pledged to do with Boko Haram, but it may be that the IM has been placed on a list along with jihadist groups,” said Conradie. “A military initiative against the IM would be very unwise: the group has not committed any acts of terrorism, and the murderous Boko Haram is certainly a much more pressing target for the Nigerian military.”