Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, the chief of army staff, escaped assassination on Saturday, when members of the Muslim sect, Shiites allegedly attacked his convoy in Zaria, Kaduna State, according to the Nigeriam Army.
In a tweet via its Twitter handle, the army blamed the attack on the Shi’ia sect.
“Shiites attempt to assassinate the chief of army staff in Zaria,” the tweet read.
Buratai was said to be on his way to pay homage to the Emir of Zazzau and attend the Passing Out Parade of 73 Regular Recruits Intake of Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria.
More so, in a statement signed by Army Spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, revealed that members of the sect, numbering hundreds, allegedly carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres.
However, all entreaties to disperse of the sect proved abortive, as they started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects.
Usman said the barricade was obviously a deliberate attempt to assassinate Buratai and members of his entourage “while on a legitimate official assignment as Special Guest of Honour at the passing out parade which has earlier been widely publicized”.
He added: “The troops responsible for the safety and security of the Chief of Army Staff on hearing explosion and firing were left with no choice than to defend him and the convoy at all cost as well as open up the barricaded road for law abiding citizens. This is in line with the Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct. This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated from any individual or groups and should not be allowed to repeat itself.
“We wish to implore all Nigerians to continue to be law abiding and remain conscious of other people’s right to life, freedom of movement and passage. The Chief of Army escaped unhurt and continued with his duties.”
However, members of the sect who spoke with The Eagle Online said the attack on them was carried out by troops who came after Buratai had left the scene of the incident.
They said the soldiers came in two trucks fully armed and started firing at the sect members.
They equally alleged that the soldiers took away the corpses of some of those they allegedly shot dead.
One of them said: “I am so certain over 50 persons were killed by the rampaging soldiers.”
Zakzaky and his spokesman, Ibrahim Usman, were yet to speak on the development as at press time.
The Nigerian Army and the Islamic Movement of Nigerian have not had a rosy relationship.
Last year, there was a clash in which no fewer than 30 members of the sect were allegedly killed.
Those killed included three sons of Zakzaky.