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Amnesty accuses Nigerian army of mass killings

By on April 22, 2016

Amnesty International said on Friday that Nigeria’s army killed hundreds of men, women and children from
a minority Shi’ite Muslim sect last December, but the military dismissed the rights group’s report as hasty, one-sided and biased.

Two days of violence began on December 12 when IMN supporters of the pro-Iranian cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky attending a religious ceremony refused to allow the chief of army staff’s convoy to pass.

Amnesty said its investigations indicated the military acted “unlawfully” by shooting “indiscriminately” at unarmed protestors.

The rights group also dismissed as baseless army claims the protesters from the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) group wanted to kill the head of the army before the clashes last December.

The military, which has been repeatedly accused of abuses against civilians in its fight against Sunni Muslim jihadists Boko Haram, has maintained its troops acted appropriately.

Amnesty said it carried out research in February 2016 during which 92 people were interviewed, including alleged victims and their relatives, eyewitnesses, lawyers and medical staff.

“It is clear that the military not only used unlawful and excessive force against men, women and children, unlawfully killing hundreds, but then made considerable efforts to try to cover-up these crimes,” said Netsanet Belay, an Amnesty director.
Most of the evidence was “meticulously destroyed”, Amnesty said, accusing soldiers of trying to cover up the carnage by limiting access to conflict sites.

“Bodies were taken away, sites were razed to the ground, the rubble removed, bloodstains washed off, and bullets and spent cartridges removed from the streets.” The report said.
Last week Amnesty called for an investigation after a Kaduna state official told an inquiry into the clashes that the military secretly buried 347 people in mass graves.

There have been fears the military action against the Shiite group in Zaria could trigger another violent uprising similar to that of Boko Haram, whose insurgency has left some 20,000 dead since 2009.

Nigerian army spokesman Sani Usman said the Amnesty report lacked credibility. “It is a hasty, one-sided and biased report aimed at arriving at a predetermined objective, he said.

“They must allow the inquiry and all other relevant agencies to complete and submit their reports before jumping to conclusions,” he added.

Most of the tens of millions of Muslims in Nigeria are Sunni, including Boko Haram militants who have killed thousands in bombings and shootings, mainly in the northeast, since 2009.

Africa’s most populous nation has around 180 million people, including several thousand Shi’ite Muslims whose movement was inspired by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Shi’ite Iran.

Amnesty provided satellite images purporting to show the location of a “possible mass grave” in the Mando area near the state capital, Kaduna city, approximately 80 kilometres (50 miles) away.

Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to investigate evidence of war crimes, “to date no concrete steps have been taken to end endemic impunity for such crimes”, Amnesty said.

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