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How I escaped death from Shi’ite Group –Army chief

• Says it was an act of God

CHIEF of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, yesterday, revealed how he es- caped an attempt on his life by Islamic Movement of Nigeria, popularly known as Shiites. He added that he es- caped the attempted assassination by an act of God.

Members of the sect, allegedly attacked Buratai’s convoy last Saturday, in Zaria, Kaduna State. Briefing newsmen at the end of a closed-door session with Senate Committee on Defence, alongside the Minister of Defence and service chiefs,‎ Buratai said the issue was very clear.

“It was aired on national televisions. Members of the group were violent on that day. You want to know how I escaped. It was by the will of God that I was able to escape from the place. I urge every- body to be law-abiding and nobody should take the law into his hands.

Speaking earlier, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Samaila Aliyu, told the committee that the ministry needs N10.6 billion for compensation arising from court judgments.

He said for many years, the ministry had not been paying electricity bill running into N18 billion. He said after negotiation with Power Holdings‎ Company of Nigeria (PHCN), through the Minister of Justice, it was reduced to N8.5 billion.

“We have judgments that have been given against our services. Minister of Justice advised us to pay the compensation when the budget comes, as the courts already determined the payment. It was actually negotiated. Our service for several years did not pay their bill of over N18 billion owed over several years. We need to pay that,”‎ he said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has called for caution in the handling of the clash between military personnel and Shi’ite at the weekend. In a statement by its Secretary General, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, NSCIA said it was shocked by the current outbreak of deadly violence in Zaria.

“At a time Nigeria is facing serious challenges, the least expected is confrontation be- tween the Nigerian Army and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.‎ Loss of lives and property is, indeed, unfortunate and such should have been prevented.

“While there are claims and counter-claims on what actually precipitated the lat- est heart-rending incident,‎ the NSCIA‎ urges the authorities to exercise restraint. The history of the circumstances that engendered the outbreak of militant insurgency in the past, with cataclysmic consequences which Nigeria is yet to recover from, should not be allowed to repeat itself,” the statement read.

… Protect Shia Muslims, Iran tells FG

IRAN has called on the Federal Government to take ‘prompt and serious’ action to protect Shia Muslims after 20 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were allegedly killed in a military crackdown in Zaria, Kaduna State.

“It is a worrying incident and prompt measures are needed to calm the situation,” Tehran-based Tasnim news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif as telling his Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama in a phone call yesterday.

The Federal Government has not commented on the report, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The military has not given casualty figures but said the clashes took place after IMN members attempted to assassinate Army Chief, General Tukur Buratai. IMN denied the allegation, insisting the army opened fire on their members. The IMN enjoys tremendous support from Iran and many of its members are sponsored to go and study there. Though most of Nigeria’s Muslims are Sunnis, but, the number of Shias is increasing in some areas.

El-Zakzaky, wife in our custody – Army

•Group claims 1,000 members killeD

THE General Officer Commanding (GOC), I Division, Army in Kaduna, Major-General Adeniyi Oyebade, has said yesterday that the Zaria-based leader of the Shi’ite Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky is the protective custody of the military.

Members of the group clashed with the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai in Zaria last Saturday, leading to the death of several Shi’ites.

However, addressing the Press last night, the GOC said both Zakzaky and his wife are in safe custody, even though he was not specific where they are being kept.

This was even as the Shi’ite Acting Director of Information, Ibrahim Musa, alleged in a statement that over 1,000 members were killed by soldiers.

The GoC noted that the Islamic leader will soon be allowed to speak with his followers to enable them believe that their leader is actually alive.

He said: “the Shi’ite leader, Zakzaky is safe and in protective custody with his wife in a conducive environment. We will allow him to speak with his followers. But as I speak to you, there was jubilation in Zaria as regards to the Army’s engagement in the city.

Meanwhile, the group alleged yesterday that soldiers killed over 1,000 members in Zaria. This was contained in a statement issued in Kaduna and signed by Ibrahim Musa.

“About a thousand members of the movement have been massacred at the moment as counting continues,” he said.