Satellite images and witness accounts offer damning new evidence that Nigeria’s military killed hundreds of minority Shiite Muslims late last year, Amnesty International said in a report Friday.
The rights group urged Nigeria to “come clean” over the Dec. 12-14 massacre in the northern town of Zaria, which is currently the subject of a government inquiry.
The confrontation began when members of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria blocked a road, refusing to let a military convoy pass. Nigeria’s military says Shiites attempted to assassinate the chief of army staff. Shiites deny that claim and rights groups have said it is difficult to believe.
Soldiers then surrounded locations including the residential compound of Shiite leader Ibraheem Zakzaky and allegedly carried out a mass slaughter believed to have killed more than 350, Amnesty said Friday.
Witnesses told Amnesty some victims were burned alive. “I don’t know how many of the wounded were burned to death. Tens and tens of them,” said a survivor named Yusuf who sustained gunshot wounds.
Zakzaky, the Shiite leader who has been detained since the massacre, was shot and left near-blind, lawyer Femi Falana said earlier this month.
Amnesty said witness testimony and satellite images had enabled it to locate one possible mass grave.
An official from Kaduna state testified April 11 before a commission of inquiry that soldiers secretly buried 347 victims, though the Shiites put the toll closer to 1,000.
“It is time now for the military to come clean and admit where it secretly buried hundreds of bodies,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty’s research director for Africa.
Army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman said Amnesty should have waited for the commission of inquiry to finish its work before releasing its “hasty” report, which “lacks credibility.”