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Detained Shiites Leader “El-Zakzaky” Feared Dead

Army silent as Shiites warn FG not to invent violence

• Rights group seeks release of imprisoned cleric

An Islamic leader in the custody of Nigerian authorities might have died. The nation’s capital, Abuja, was tense for the most part of yesterday, while military armoured tanks and heavily armed policemen patrolled the streets of Kaduna in a show of force.

The Guardian reliably learnt the cleric might have passed away yesterday, with the authorities hurriedly putting security measures in place to forestall violence by his supporters and persons sympathetic to his cause.

A meeting of a paramilitary body in Kaduna, yesterday, was swiftly concluded with members warned to stay indoors and not travel back to their states for fear of a possible backlash following the rumoured death.Followers of the embattled cleric have for months called for his release. The authorities, however, appeared to have had other reasons for holding him, despite court orders granting him bail.

The army, allegedly holding the cleric in “protective custody”, was silent on his current fate. Calls and text messages to spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman Kukasheka, at 3:18 p.m. and 3:48 p.m., yesterday, to confirm the matter were not replied to before press time.Other security sources contacted for confirmation also kept sealed lips.

A call by The Guardian to the embassy of a notable Arab country with presumed links to the cleric did not yield any result, as the cultural envoy was said to have travelled overseas and was not in a position to comment.The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), meanwhile, has blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for the development.

Executive Director, Ibuchukwu Ezike, accused Buhari of impunity and disdain for the rule of law since assumption of office.This president may have just created another Boko Haram, Ezike said, adding that the administration’s incarceration of Nigerians without charge and in defiance of court orders is a threat to democracy and national stability.

Insisting the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) must be released for urgent medical care, the group, yesterday, warned the Federal Government not to use the rumoured death of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky as pretext to create a crisis.

“Security agents are spreading false information and rumours, with a view to breaking our will and causing confusion, so that they could seize the opportunity to turn our peaceful protests into violence. “Credible reports have confirmed that hoodlums have been commissioned by the authorities to foment trouble by burning tyres and property in the course of our peaceful processions. Part of their evil plot involves spreading false news of the alleged death of our leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, due to illness, on fake Facebook profile pages,” said IMN spokesman, Mallam Ibrahim Musa in Kaduna.

The group said the security agencies “had hoped to achieve their mischievous aims by wreaking havoc and attributing the same to supposed reaction of members of the Islamic Movement. When all their evil machinations failed woefully, they went wild and opened fire on peaceful protesters that were demanding the immediate release of Sheikh El-Zakzaky to enable him to attend to his deteriorating health.”

It added: “This police fury followed their inability to cash in on the effects of such fake news and reports they have circulated on social media to incite violence to discredit the Islamic Movement.

“The Islamic Movement will like to reiterate its age-long stand of adopting peaceful means in pursuing its objectives. We vehemently reject any attempt to label us as violent. We are so orderly than for anybody to incite us into taking illogical violent means. We would not be held responsible for anything contrary to our peaceful resolve and methods.”

In the same vein, pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, condemned suppression and killings by security forces of IMN protesters.

In the statement in Abuja, National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, urged the Federal Government to release from detention Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), El-Zakzaky and his wife, and thousands of members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).



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