Abuja — Nigerian Shiite Muslims have accused Nigerian troops of killing 11 of their members and injuring 40 others in a clash between the group and soldiers in Zaria on Friday.
In a statement on Friday night, the group said among those gunned down were Mahmud, the son of the leader of the group, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, as well as a woman with a baby strapped to her back.
Ibrahim Musa, the editor of Al-Mizan, the weekly newspaper published by the group, said in a statement, "Reports reaching our news desk now indicated that some soldiers of the Nigerian army have opened fire on the tail end of the Quds procession held after Jumaat prayers in Zaria, Kaduna State.
"The procession, which took off from Sabon Gari Jumaat Mosque, reached Kofar Doka peacefully with no incident. However some soldiers attacked the procession [at the] PZ junction in Zaria.
"They shot Mahmud Ibraheem Zakzaky, but [his body] was taken away by the Muslim brothers. But several [other] Muslim brothers were shot by the security agents.
"As at the time of writing this report, there is no confirmation on the number of Muslim brothers shot or killed by the soldiers, but our [sources] say five people were killed. The Quds procession was held today peacefully in more than 10 Nigerian cities. Why the attack on the Zaria procession?
"[The] latest report on the attack by soldiers on Quds peaceful procession is that ten Muslim brothers were gunned down by the soldiers, among them Mahmud Ibraheem Zakzaky, son of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, and a Muslim sister with her child on her back. There are over 40 Muslim brothers' casualties with different degrees of gunshots by the soldiers. The story is still unfolding, with reinforcement of soldiers coming from Kaduna, according to our news sources."
The military did not respond to requests for comment. Defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, did not respond to calls to his mobile telephone.
The spokesperson for the Kaduna-based 1 Mechanized Division of the Nigeria Army, Usman Abdullahi, said he would provide details later.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier quoted residents who narrated how soldiers exchanged fire with members of the group who were on a procession around the PZ area of the town, in response to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Other residents however said the Shiite members were unarmed and that it was soldiers who opened fire on them as they moved through the city.
The procession, called Muzahara, is an annual ritual after the Ramadan, during which thousands of faithful walk around the city dressed in black.
This year, the Shiites dedicated the march to protesting the ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.
Residents reported prolonged gunfire that lasted about an hour. One resident said he saw five bodies taken away from the scene of the shooting.
"I can't really ascertain what happened, but I saw five unidentified corpse taken away from the scene," the resident, a Shiite Muslim, said.
Another witness said the incident occurred when military personnel tried to force their way through the crowd of Shiite followers.
"Mahmud, one of Shiekh Ibrahim El-Zakzaki's son is shot and the second son Ahmed was arrested and taken away by the security. Mahmood is however, not dead," a witness, Musa Ali, said.
Residents scampered for safety after gunfire erupted, and shop owners closed for the day, Mr. Ali said. Earlier, a witness had told PREMIUM TIMES that no life was lost in the encounter.
Zaria is the second major city in Kaduna State, and near the state capital, Kaduna, where twin bomb blasts killed more than 40 people on Wednesday. The city is regarded as the spiritual centre of the radical Islamic groups in Nigeria.