Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Fears of new new threat emerge with Shiite, Army clashes

19 December 2015, 07:30

Lagos - The country, which is still battling Boko Haram militants, now risks unleashing a new Islamist threat after violent clashes between the army and a radical Shiite group, experts say.

Though no official death toll was released, at least a dozen members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were killed in confrontations with the army during a religious procession last week in the northern city of Zaria.

IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky was seriously wounded and arrested by the army while his number two was killed during the clashes. The military was forced to put out a denial after rumours spread that Zakzaky's wife died in custody.

Also Read: Reps to investigate army, Shi'ite clash

The violence mirrors the bloody beginning of the Boko Haram insurrection in 2009, when the former leader of the Sunni militant group was executed in police custody and the sect took up arms against the Nigerian government.

The highest Muslim authority, the Sultan of Sokoto, on Monday urged the authorities to show "restraint".

"Don't create a new Boko Haram," warned Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakarr in a statement.

"The past, with cataclysmic consequences that Nigeria is yet to recover from, should not be allowed to repeat itself," he added.

Battling Boko Haram is a priority for President Muhammadu Buhari, who has vowed to end the insurgency that has claimed 17 000 lives.

'Risk of escalation'

Zakzaky, who founded IMN in the 1980s, has been monitored by security forces for years on suspicion that he is trying to create an independent Shiite state.

As a defiant preacher in the late 1970s, he described the country as being run by thieves.

"The IMN attracts impoverished Muslim youths by preaching defiance of Nigeria's secular authorities and offering a social infrastructure that is not provided by the state," said Malte Liewerscheidt, Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a research and investment firm.

"Like other Shiite movements around the world, the IMN enjoys political and financial support from the Shia regime in Iran," Liewerscheidt said.

The army says the hardline rhetoric boiled over into violence in Zaria, with the Shiite worshippers allegedly attacking the convoy of army chief Yusuf Buratai -- a claim denied by IMN.

Soldiers attacked and destroyed a mosque, while Zakzaky was severely injured and his house was destroyed.

The total toll of the clashes, which continued between soldiers and hundreds of Shiite faithful for two days, is unknown, but it is likely to amount to dozens of deaths, according to testimony gathered by AFP.

"Whilst the final death toll is unclear, there is no doubt there has been a substantial loss of life at the hands of the military," said M.K. Ibrahim, director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, who called for a "impartial investigation" into the Zaria events.

Also Read: US concerned at escalating tensions in Zaria

"Since Nigeria's security forces are ill-equipped and trained to deal with riot control, the escalation of a local confrontation with the IMN was just a matter of time," said Liewescheidt.

"The risk of escalation will be compounded if the military response spirals out of control and if due process is ignored in the handling of Zakzaky and his followers who are in custody."

However, not everyone sees IMN as a nascent insurgency.

"Nigeria's small Shiite minority is generally well integrated within Nigerian society," said Roddy Barclay, analyst at strategy firm Africa Practise.

"It is important to note that Zakzaky's Shiite followers would find little affinity with Boko Haram's ultraconservative Sunni fighters," he said. "However, the personal cult around Sheikh Zakzaky has been a source of tension."

"They are small in numbers and somewhat isolated as a grouping, limiting prospects for an emergent insurgency parallel to that of Boko Haram," said Barclay.



Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...