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Nigeria: Amid Growing Death Toll in Security Circles, Shi’ite Uprising Takes New Twist

The uprising of Shi’ite Muslims in Nigeria who are protesting against the continued detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, appears to be taking a new dimension.

The armed security forces are clashing with the unrelenting protesters as the group began another march in the country’s capital city, Abuja, despite the bloody Monday clashes which continued on Tuesday.

The violent turn in their struggle is coming as the security forces are increasingly losing their own. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has lost two of its personnel, an officer and an aircraftman in an ambush allegedly laid against troops of 271 Detachment, Birnin Gwari,by armed bandits.

They reportedly died while clearing the ambush laid against them by the bandits at Kawan Pole Waya, about 20 kilometres from Birnin Gwari along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road.

In a statement, the air force Spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, gave the names of the two victims as Flying Officer Abdulrahman Bayero and Aircraftman Saidu Bawa. The deceased are ‘’scheduled to be buried’’, the statement said.

‘’Troops of 271 Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Detachment, Birnin Gwari on Monday, 22 July 2019, at about 5pm dismounted an ambush set up by armed bandits at Kawan Pole Waya, about 20km from Birnin Gwari along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road.

‘’The gallant troops were able to fight their way through the ambush to the side of Birnin Gwari and called for reinforcement. Unfortunately, 2 NAF personnel paid the supreme price in the process. The personnel, Flying Officer Abdulrahman Bayero and Aircraftman Saidu Bawa, are scheduled to be buried today in accordance with Islamic rites.

‘’The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf all officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF, commiserates with the families of the fallen heroes and prays that the Almighty grants their souls peaceful repose.  The CAS, who was at Birnin Gwari on Saturday, 20 July 2019, on an assessment visit, has urged all NAF personnel to remain resolute and continue to work assiduously, in synergy with sister Services and other security agencies, to rid the Northwest of all criminal elements’’, the statement said.

In the mean time, as the Shi’ite protest grows, the air of Abuja is getting thick with teargas as soldiers and police officers make efforts to crush the uprising as gunshots are also being heard in the shaken capital city.

El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, have been in detention since December 2015, following a fracas between followers of the Shi’ite leader and the army in Zaria, Kaduna State.

On Monday the Shi’ites began their protest   to press home their demand. But, the Police launched tear gas canisters and fired gunshots  to disperse the protesters who filled the streets  of Abuja, The Police Command in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) said they had arrested 12 Shi’ites who were on the rampage in the Banex area of the troubled city on Tuesday.

The FCT Police Spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah, said in a statement they acted professionally by using minimum force to restore calm  to  the capital city. According to him, ‘’the police moved swiftly to the scene and arrested 12 members of the sect. The suspects were arrested while attacking innocent people, blocking roads and disrupting activities in the Banex area.’’

The continued protest by the Islamic sect is grounding  economic activities in the capital city as many residents  scamper to safety to avoid being caught in the crossfire between  security forces  and the protesters who claimed to be unarmed.

The protest started taking a violent turn on Monday, leading to the death of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in the FCT, Usman Musa, and Precious Owolabi who was reporting for Channels TV, a member of the National Youth Service Corps.

Two Shi’ites were allegedly killed while two Assistant  Superintendent of Police and others  got injured. However, the Islamic sect is claiming 11 of their members  were killed by security forces with 30 injured.

But, the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, who said they arrested 54 protesters, claimed the Shi’ites shot dead Umar.

Apparently not willing to allow the dangerous turn to flower, President Buhari  has warned that  the protesting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), known as Shi’ites, were testing the patience of his All Progressives Congress (APC) administration with their violent protests  in Abuja.

While reacting to the killing of the police chief, Usman Umar and  Precious Owolabi, Buhari said his administration might be forced to act with maximum force to defend the interest of the majority of Nigerians, and accordingly called on any group carrying out violent protests to stop now, else the government will take decisive actions against them.

‘’Let nobody or group doubt or test our will to act in the higher interest of  the majority of our citizens’’, the president’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted his principal as saying in a statement.

‘’The President said he was deeply touched by the death of Umar and Owolabi as he condoled with their families and the management of Channels TV, where the corps member was attached to. He described the two as law-abiding, hard-working and vibrant Nigerians with a promising future’’, Adesina added.

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