Over 700 Muslims missing after Nigeria army raids
A Nigerian Islamic group says more than 700 of its members are still unaccounted for a month after the deadly attacks by Nigerian forces against Shia Muslims in the northern city of Zaria.
In a statement released on Thursday, Ibrahim Musa, the spokesman for the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), whose leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky is in police custody, said about 730 people have gone missing since December 12, 2015.
“These missing people were either killed by the army or are in detention” but their “whereabouts are still unknown and undisclosed,” Musa said.
He further noted that some 220 IMN members were in a prison, located in the city of Kaduna, the capital of the state with the same name, while others were in military custody elsewhere across the African state.
On December 12 last year, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the northern city of Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him. The Shias have categorically denied the allegations.
The following day, Nigerian forces also raided Zakzaky’s home and arrested him after reportedly killing those attempting to protect him, including one of the IMN’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
Both incidents led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the religious community, including three of Zakzaky’s sons. There has been no official death toll in the violence, but rights activists have put the number at over 1,000.
Musa said no Nigerian family had received a body for burial in the weeks since the Zaria violence.
The Shia cleric is said to have been charged with “criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbances.”
The IMN has called for Zakzaky’s unconditional release and for Abuja to respond to the “unjustifiable atrocities committed by the army.”