Nigerian army appears to use Trump’s words to defend shooting of protesters
The Nigerian army has hinted in a tweet that comments from US President Donald Trump justify its lethal shooting of Shiite protesters over the past week.
On Friday the Nigerian army posted a video of Trump’s Thursday speech on its official Twitter feed, with the comment: “Please Watch and Make your Deductions.”
CNN has made several requests for comment on the tweet to the Nigerian army, which has faced strong criticism from human rights groups and Nigerians over its actions against the protesters. The tweet has since been removed.
In a speech at the White House Thursday on immigration and asylum policy, Trump suggested US troops could open fire on members of migrant groups headed to the US-Mexico border.
“They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” Trump said. “When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say consider it a rifle,” he said, alleging the migrant group headed to the US clashed with the Mexican police this week.
On Friday, the President reversed his claim that the US would shoot at any rock-throwing migrants crossing into the US.
“They do that with us, they’re going to be arrested. There’s going to be a problem. I didn’t say shoot,” he said.
In the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Monday, soldiers shot at members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who were taking part in a religious procession and demanding the release of their leader, who has been in detention since 2015.
According to Amnesty International, at least 45 people were killed and 122 people were wounded in the clashes Saturday and Monday. The army, however, said six members of the group died in the clashes and six soldiers were seriously injured.
The army said members of the IMN threw stones at its troops and attacked its convoy carrying ammunition Saturday, adding that the soldiers opened fire in self-defense. Citing evidence collected from videos of the protest and eyewitnesses, Amnesty described the actions of the army and police as a “horrific use of excessive force.”
“Those injured were shot in different parts of the body — head, neck, back, chest, shoulder, legs, arms — and some of them had multiple gunshot wounds,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty’s country director for Nigeria.
“This pattern clearly shows soldiers and police approached IMN processions not to restore public order, but to kill.”
The Nigerian Defence Headquarters Thursday denied Amnesty’s allegations, saying the group’s account was not a “true reflection” of the incident. The protesters were the “aggressors” and the military acted in self-defense, it said.
The US Embassy in Nigeria said in a statement Thursday that it was concerned about the incident and called for an investigation into the shootings. Those responsible must be held accountable, the embassy said.
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told CNN Thursday that he could not comment on what steps the presidency was taking in response to the incident.
Shiite members have often marched and protested the arrest nearly three years ago of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, and his continuing detention.
Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian security forces of leading a crackdown on members of the sect.
In 2015, the military accused Zakzaky’s followers of the attempted assassination of a military chief in Zaria city in Kaduna State, an allegation the group denied.
Amnesty said that more than 350 Shiites were killed by soldiers who launched an attack on the sect members.
There are an estimated three million Shiite Muslims in Nigeria, a country of more than 190 million people.