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Calls for urgent investigation into Nigeria 'massacre'

Published 16/12/2015

Muslims students shout slogans against the Nigerian government over the killings of hundreds of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria, in Jammu, India (AP)
Muslims students shout slogans against the Nigerian government over the killings of hundreds of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria, in Jammu, India (AP)

Human rights advocates have called for an investigation following the Nigerian army's raid on Shiite Muslims in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed.

Details of the weekend violence in Zaria have been slow to emerge, with the three attacked areas of the northern town on lockdown as late as Tuesday, with no one allowed to enter or leave.

Amnesty International said in a statement that the shooting of members of the Shiite Islamic Movement in Zaria "must be urgently investigated ... and anyone found responsible for unlawful killings must be brought to justice".

"Whilst the final death toll is unclear, there is no doubt of that there has been a substantial loss of life at the hands of the military," said M.K. Ibrahim, director of Amnesty International in Nigeria.

The bloodshed was yet another blow to Africa's most populous nation, already beset by a six-year insurgency waged by Boko Haram.

On Monday, soldiers carried away about 200 bodies from around the home of the group's leader Ibraheem Zakzaky - who was himself badly wounded and whose whereabouts are unknown, according to Shiite Islamic Movement spokesman Ibrahim Musa.

Hundreds more corpses are in the mortuary, Mr Musa added. Human rights activists said hundreds of people, perhaps as many as 1,000, were killed.

The army said troops attacked sites in Zaria after 500 Shiites blocked the convoy of Nigeria's army chief, and tried to kill him on Saturday.

A report from the military police said some Shiites were crawling through tall grass towards General Tukur Buratai's vehicle "with the intent to attack the vehicle with (a) petrol bomb" while others "suddenly resorted to firing gunshots from the direction of the mosque".

The army said there was "loss of lives as a result of the Shiite group members blocking roads and not allowing other passers-by to go about their lawful businesses and activities", and added that "as soon as order is restored ... the police will conduct an enquiry and the public will be informed".

Chidi Odinkalu of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission called the attacks "a massacre". The army said it has asked the rights commission to investigate the alleged assassination attempt on the army chief.

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