Nigeria: army massacre of Shi’ites claimed in north

Human rights advocates are demanding an investigation following a Nigerian army raid on a Shi'ite sect in which hundreds of followers were reportedly killed in Zaria, a city in north-central Kaduna state. Details of the Dec. 12 raid are still sketchy, with the three attacked areas of the city still sealed off by security forces. A local journalist said he counted more than 800 bodies brought to the city morgue. A spokesman for the sect, Ibrahim Musa, said that as many as 1,000 of its members had been killed, and accused the army of covering up the death toll, saying that soldiers had been taking the bodies of the dead to an "unknown destination." The army has only confirmed it had arrested Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, and his wife. More have reportedly been killed as follwers of the sect have attempted to protest in defiance of the curfew since the massacre.

The US embassy has joined Amnesty International in calling for an urgent investigation into the violence. "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 MK Ibrahim, director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has summoned an emergency meeting of its leaders at the National Mosque in Abuja  to review the massacre claims. The NSCIA is the highest Islamic body in Nigeria, under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar. (Information Nigeria, Daily Trust, Nigeria, Premium Times, Nigeria, This Day, Nigeria, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 16; NYT, Dec. 15)