World Bulletin / News Desk
An influential Nigerian Muslim umbrella group has accused the army of "targeted killings" of Muslims in different parts of the country's restive northern region under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
"The military is targeting Muslims with extrajudicial killings, especially in the north," Khalid Aliyu, spokesman for Nigeria's Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
"We have repeatedly drawn the attention of appropriate authorities to the extrajudicial killings, but no one seems to care," he said. "The spate of extrajudicial killings of Muslims is alarming."
In a strongly-worded statement issued late Monday, the group accused the army of exploiting the ongoing state of emergency in three northern states to kill innocent Muslims.
"The dimension of extrajudicial killing of Muslims by the military on unsubstantiated suspicion leaves much to be desired, which clearly depicts that Muslims have become an endangered species – murdered and maimed indiscriminately under the guise of fighting terrorism," the statement read.
JNI is a major Muslim umbrella organization that covers all of northern Nigeria.
It is chaired by Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Abubakar Sa'ad III, considered the leader of the country's Muslims.
A state of emergency currently remains in place across the northeastern Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, where Boko Haram insurgents have killed thousands since 2009.
Emergency rule, declared last May, is set to expire this month. It remains unclear whether it will be extended further.
A hitherto peaceful organization that had preached against government corruption, Boko Haram suddenly turned violent in 2009 following the murder of its leader, Mohamed Yusuf, while in police custody.
In the years since, the group has been blamed for thousands of terrorist acts, including attacks on churches and security posts across Nigeria's northern region.
Although it claims to want an Islamist government in the region, Nigerian Muslims – most of whom reject Boko Haram as un-Islamic – have also been targeted by the militant group.
JNI, meanwhile, described the recent killing of unarmed Fulani herdsmen in the central Nasarawa State – an act blamed on army troops – as an "unacceptable massacre."
"We can say without any fear of contradiction that there is a grand agenda to destabilize the Muslim Ummah [nation] in Nigeria," it said.
Mohamed Hussein, secretary of Miyeti Allah, an association of local Fulani herdsmen, has accused Nigerian soldiers of killing nearly 30 Fulani people – mainly elderly men and women – in an attack on their settlement last week in Nasarawa State's Keana local council area.
He alleged that a detachment of Nigerian soldiers had stormed the settlement early Thursday, shooting at everyone in sight.
The army has put the death toll at 15 and denied any involvement in the attack.
The JNI, which has become increasingly vocal on national issues, also cited the recent killing of dozens of Muslims in the northwestern Zamfara state.
"If any Nigerian is in doubt regarding the hidden agenda to destabilize Muslims in Nigeria… then the Zamfara State incident should have removed this doubt," the group said.
It added: "An event where vigilance personnel working to restore peace would be the subject of a grand massacre tells much about the chaos and insecurity some enemies want to push our states into."
Scores were killed when militants wearing army fatigues attacked a village in Zamfara when local vigilantes were meeting to discuss security arrangements.
On Monday, Nigerian authorities confirmed that 79 people had been killed in the weekend attack.
The JNI also accused the military of failing to adhere to the accepted rules of engagement as it prosecutes its war or terrorism.
"Where is the human rights compliance and rules of engagement by the military personnel involved in maintaining peace and security?" the group asked. "Why are defaulting military personnel not brought to book?"
Nigeria's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday accused security agencies of unlawfully killing civilians suspected of being Boko Haram insurgents, ordering that compensation be paid out to victims.
"We found that there is no credible evidence to tag those young Nigerians 'terrorists' or 'agents' for the terrorist Boko Haram organization," NHRC Chairman Chidi Odinkalu told AA.
"What happened to those harmless victims was repudiation of poverty by our security agencies," he said.
The NHRC went on to accuse security agencies of violating the Geneva Conventions on acceptable rules of engagement, saying investigations had revealed that maximum force had been brought to bear against civilians.
It also chided security forces for being trigger happy, insisting that claims by the latter that they had been acting in self-defense were "inconsistent and could not be accepted."
The JNI, for its part, warned the army against taking any actions that threatened to divide the nation's security agencies along ethno-religious lines.
"The military should know it is extremely dangerous to polarize security agencies along religious lines," the JNI warned.
"It will have far-reaching negative effect on the country, especially at this material time, when the efforts of all are required to cushion the effect of the pain we are passing through," it added.
Divisions within the military led to Nigeria's first military coup in January of 1966, which was followed by counter-coup in July of the same year, laying the groundwork for a subsequent three-year civil war.
The military has yet to comment on the JNI's allegations.
Army spokesman Chris Olukolade could not be immediately reached for comment.
Last week, however, Olukolade told AA that the military had no connection to the Nasarawa killings.
The army had also decried earlier allegations that Muslims were being targeted in its military operations.Last Mod: 08 Nisan 2014, 17:55