Amnesty International (AI), the global watchdog of human right abuses, has accused the Nigerian military of “mass slaughter of hundreds of men, women and children” in Zaria and attempting to cover-up the incident, which it said demonstrates an “utter contempt for human life and accountability.”
But Defence spokesman, Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, described the report as “unfair,” saying the military had not been consulted before its publication.
“If they have proper evidence, let them bring it out for all to see. We cannot confront law-abiding citizens.”
“Whoever we confronted must have been a criminal and enemy of the state,” he told AFP.
In its report published yesterday on its website, AI said evidence gathered on the ground revealed how the military burned people alive, razed buildings and dumped victims’ bodies in mass graves.
This tends to corroborate the April 10 evidence of a top official of the Kaduna State government when he appeared before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the state government, following the Shiites-military clash in Zaria between December 12 and 14 last year, involving the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, in which a large number of people were said to have died, culminating in the continuous detention of the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and other members since then.
The official told the commission that the bodies of 347 IMN were collected from the hospital mortuary and an Army depot in Zaria and buried secretly in a mass grave near Mando on the nights of December 14 and December 15.
The group’s supporters, armed with batons, knives, and machetes, had refused to clear the road near their headquarters, the Hussainiyya, for a military convoy to pass.
The military had claimed that IMN supporters attacked the convoy in an attempt to assassinate Buratai, which IMN members denied.
The report, titled, Unearthing the truth: Unlawful killings and mass cover-up in Zaria, detailed eyewitness testimony of alleged large-scale killings by the military and exposes attempt by the authorities to destroy and conceal evidence.
“The true horror of what happened over those two days in Zaria is only now coming to light. Bodies were left littered in the streets and piled outside the mortuary. Some of the injured were burned alive,” said Netsanet Belay, AI’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.
“Our research, based on witness testimonies and analysis of satellite images, has located one possible mass grave. It is time now for the military to come clean and admit where it secretly buried hundreds of bodies.”