The Nigerian army attacked two religious centers of the country's Shiite community on Saturday, killing hundreds of defenseless civilians there. A few hours later on Sunday, the military arrested Leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky after raiding his house and killing his son, assistants and followers.
The Iranian foreign ministry on Monday afternoon summoned the Nigerian envoy to voice Tehran's serious concern over the incident.
At the meeting, Head of the foreign ministry's first office for African affairs condemned the the Nigerian army attack on the Shiite community as unacceptable, and reiterated the Nigerian government's responsibility for protecting the lives of the Shiites and religious centers, specially the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran seriously demands clarification of the dimensions of the incident, treatment of the wounded people and compensation of the damages incurred at the earliest," the Iranian diplomat said.
The Nigerian charge d'affaires, for his part, said that he would inform his government of Iran's concern and provide Tehran with a response.
Earlier today, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian voiced concern over the clampdown on the Shiite Muslims community, cautioning that the fate of Sheikh Zakzaky, is of crucial importance both to Iran and the Muslim world.
"Clarifying Sheikh Zakzaky's fate is very important to the Muslim world and Iran," Amir Abdollahian said on Monday.
He cautioned that the Muslim nation of Nigeria and the rest of the world Muslims want to see Sheikh Zakzaky sound and safe and in good shape.
Amir Abdollahian, meantime, pointed to the status quo of Iran-Nigeria relations, and said, "Tehran and Abuja have currently very good relations and the Nigerian president has recently visited Tehran."
"Using this positive atmosphere reigning our relations, we have repeatedly cautioned them that they are responsible for this incident."
The Saturday and Sunday crackdown on the Shiite community by the Nigerian army that ended in the massacre of the Shiites in several raids has caused serious concerns in Tehran.
Also earlier today, the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in a statement condemned the "barbaric" massacre of the oppressed Shiites of Nigeria in Zaria city, Kaduna State.
"The regrettable report on the barbaric massacre of Nigeria's oppressed Shiites by the Nigerian army and that country's ruling system has hurt the feelings of millions of vigilant human conscience, specially Muslims, across the world," the statement said. It mentioned that such behaviors show the climax of the imprudence of governmental bodies in the administration of a country.
No doubt under the present conditions that the world's Muslims are witnessing the shedding of the blood of their sisters and brothers by the terrorist Takfiri and Salafi currents, this act will be interpreted as an aid and companionship with international terrorism, the statement said.
While condemning this inhuman act, the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission calls on the Iranian foreign ministry to summon the Nigerian ambassador to Tehran and convey Iran's strong protest to him and also pursue the case thru the UN and human rights bodies, it added.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that it is duty-bound to defend the oppressed people of Nigeria and the respectable Muslim (religious) scholars of that country, specially Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, and it will do its best to this end," the statement added.
"As an important member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Nigeria is now facing problems that have resulted from Takfiri extremism and terrorism and we hope that in such conditions, restoring calm and national solidarity in the fight against terrorism will be prioritized and hasty and unconstructive measures will be avoided," it added.
The Nigerian army staged several raids on three Shiite religious centers and killed hundreds of defenseless citizens in the city of Zaria on Saturday and Sunday.
"The Army forces opened fire at those present in Zakzaky's house, killing and wounding a large number of people," a member of the UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) told FNA on Sunday.
According to him, the soldiers opened fire on local residents who were trying to protect the Shiite cleric.
A local resident told FNA that Sheikh Zakzaky's wife, Zinat Ibrahim, and his fourth son, Ali, were killed in the last raid on his house on Sunday.
Ali's three elder brothers were all martyred by the Nigerian army in their raid on the last year's Tasoua and Ashoura mourning ceremonies marking the martyrdom anniversary of Shiite Islam's third Imam, Hossein Ibn-e Ali (AS). Ali was taken by plain clothes regime forces and kept in an unknown place for some time during the last year raid.
Also, eyewitnesses said that Sheikh Mahmoud Mohammad Touri and Dr. Mostafa Saeed, the Nigerian leader's deputy and physician, respectively, as well as Osman Ibrahim and Jemi Glima were among those killed in the raid.
Witnesses also said that the army surrounded the Leader's house after multiple raids Sunday.
"All those inside the house were killed and Sheikh Zakzaky was arrested and taken away by the soldier," they added.
According to the locals, soldiers returned to the house and killed all those inside who had been wounded in previous raids. "No one is alive now," they said, adding that tens of people have been killed in the army raids on the Sheikh's house and two other Shiite religious center that started Saturday night through Sunday morning (local time).
The army raids followed its clampdown on Shiite Muslims in the country’s city of Zaria, Kaduna State, in which at least 1,000 people were killed and many more injured.
“At noon today (Saturday) armed soldiers were seen in the precincts of Hussainiyyah Baqiyyatullah, Zaria, where members of the Islamic Movement were to hoist flag to usher in the new month of Maulud, the birth of the Holy Prophet of Islam," Islamic Movement Spokesman Ibrahim Usman said in a statement.
“Similar occasion was previously carried out on the same spot with free traffic flow under the supervision of the Movement’s traffic warders," he added.
“When some brothers met the soldiers to ask for their mission, they took position and opened fire indiscriminately, killed many and took away seven of the casualties to an unknown location," Usman said.
“Based on the foregoing, we believe that the military had pre-planned this and had acted according to their mischievous script. They came with their cameramen, videotaping the whole incidence while it lasted."
“We are however surprised that, spokesman of the military Colonel Kuka Sheka shamelessly came out in the media and issued a press statement to say, that it was an assassination attempt on the Chief of Army Staff at the order of the movement’s leader."
“Why was it that there were no casualties on the side of the military, if it were to be an assassination attempt? What happened was never a clash, but a continuation of act of terrorism by the Nigerian military on the Movement, as was the case in the past."
“We are not surprised by this action, as there were reports spread by the same military the night before that the Shiites were to avenge their dead by hired thugs on Friday in Gabari, a village in Zaria."
“The same military also spread rumors that the Shiites had killed soldiers, all in attempt to justify today’s (Saturday’s) dastardly act."
“Kuka Sheka should know that once bitten twice shy. The 2014 massacre of 34 members of the Islamic Movement, including three of Sheikh Zakzaky’s children by the military; the attempt on Sheikh Zakzaky’s convoy by the same military are still in our minds." “No government can flourish successfully with disoriented military, full of trigger-itchy personnel and security operatives trained by CIA and Mossad."
“Until the present government fishes out this cabal in the military and brings the culprits to book, we will believe the government is condoning violence and terrorism on innocent citizens.”
Also, Yusuf Abubakar, an eye witness said that “I saw two soldiers asking the Shiite members to remove the barricade but they refused only for the soldiers to open fire on them".
“Suddenly, there was confusion everywhere. I saw more than 30 corpses on the ground before soldiers took them away.”
Another eye witness who pleaded anonymity said that “the soldiers were armed to the teeth as they came in about three Hilux vans and armored personnel carriers".
“They were pleading with the Shiite members to clear the way for the Army Chief who was being expected."
Yesterday's incident is the latest in the series of clashes between security agents and members of the Islamic Movement.
In one of such encounters in July last year, three sons of El-Zakzaky were killed by soldiers.
The IHRC issued a report at the time, blaming soldiers for what it called shooting and killing of defenseless members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria between July 25 and 26.
It said that shortly after the Friday prayers on July 25, the Shiite members embarked on the traditional Al-Quds procession done in support of the Palestinian Cause following the same route it has followed in the last 33 years.
The report said 34 defenseless members of the group were murdered in cold blood as they marched through the streets of Zaria, in Kaduna State.
About 100 others were injured, it said citing interviews with victims, their families and witnesses.
The IHRC also obtained a video footage of soldiers firing at unarmed civilians at the end of the procession.
Besides, it said that it had proof that many of those arrested died in military custody, unable to withstand the brutality they were subjected to by the soldiers.
Last month, about 20 members of the Islamic Movement were blown up in a bomb attack during a procession from Kano to Zaria.
A suspected suicide bomber who pretended to be part of the procession set off a bomb at Dakasonye village in Garun Mallam Local Government of Kano State.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack but El-Zakzaky said his group knew those behind the attack.
“We know the names of the contractors and those contracted to commit the massacre, their identity is not hidden from us. Therefore we cannot be cowed by an imaginary Boko Haram tale, let them tell it to the fools and the ignorant. They should know that they are dealing with those with foresight, wisdom and intelligence, and above all with the real religion,” he said.
“There is nothing like a suicide bomber. They tortured and drugged unsuspecting captives and made them carriers of the explosives which they detonated amidst people."