Rights activists have called for the bodies of hundreds of Shia Muslims massacred by the Nigerian army last December to be exhumed for further investigation into the exact number of victims.
Residents in the northern city of Kaduna, where the carnage took place, have rejected the official death toll and said a local inquiry into the incident suggests the government figures may be a gross underestimation.
On December 12, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him.
A day later, Nigerian forces raided the home of Sheikh Ibhrahim al- Zakzaky, who leads the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), and arrested him after killing those attempting to protect him. Both incidents led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the religious community.
Rights groups say there is evidence Nigerian military had secretly buried hundreds of bodies in mass graves.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Mustapha and Nura Adam, two eye-witnesses, have also painted a horrific picture of the massacre.
Referring to a mass grave outside Kaduna, Mustapha said the local “government claimed they buried 347 people here but we know the actual number is far more than that.”
Mustapha also recalled how earth-moving equipment was brought into the cemetery near the Nigerian Defense Academy in the troubled region on December 14 to dig a pit for the burial.
He also noted that at about 11:00 p.m. (2200 GMT) armed forces cordoned off the narrow path leading to the burial ground shortly before trucks filled with bodies arrived.
“I counted six huge trucks and several military vans laden with dead bodies driving into the cemetery for the mass burial which residents were not allowed to witness,” said Adam.
“It took them five hours to finish the burial, which was an indication that the bodies were more than 347 because it doesn’t take that long to thrown in such a number of bodies into a pit,” he added.
Adam also said the bodies should be exhumed to confirm the exact number of the dead, adding that the world would be “shocked by the true number of those buried.”
However, Abdulhakeem Mustapha, counsel to the Kaduna state commission of inquiry probing the incident, has said local public officials do not have any authority to force the central government in Abuja to take action over the massacre.
“This is an investigative committee. It doesn’t have powers to issue orders,” said Mustapha, adding, “It is going to make its recommendations to the government on what it believes are the best ways to resolve the problem based on its findings.”
Last week, Amnesty International said in a report titled “Unearthing the truth: unlawful killings and mass cover-up in Zaria,” on April 22 that the Nigerian army killed over 350 supporters of Zakzaky and tried to meticulously destroy evidence of the crime by burying the victims in mass graves.
The report also blames Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for failing to probe army crimes against civilians.
Despite Buhari’s pledge to investigate the war crimes, “to date no concrete steps have been taken to end endemic impunity for such crimes,” it pointed out.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also slammed the carnage and said Nigerian forces committed several instances of bloodshed against the country’s Shia community in mid-December 2015.
The Nigerian army had also targeted Shias in August 2014 as people were holding a demonstration to condemn Israeli attacks on the Palestinians.
A Nigerian human rights lawyer has called for the immediate and unconditional release of senior Shia cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.
In a Tuesday letter to the director general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Femi Falana said that Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat should be freed from “illegal detention” within 24 hours.
Zakzaky and his wife have been in detention since December last year.
The clergyman is said to have been charged with “criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbances.”
Falana said “even though our clients have not been told that they breached any law, they have been denied access to their lawyers, personal physicians, and family members for over three months.”
“Our clients were only permitted to meet with us last Friday after several requests made by us had been turned down without any legal basis,” he added.
Falana further noted that Zakzaky had lost his left eye due to the brutal attacks during his arrest, and that the doctors “are currently battling to save the right” eye.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Zakzaky.
The London-based NGO slammed the persecution of Sheikh Zakzaky and his Islamic Movement in Nigeria as an affront to all civilized and democratic values.
It also urged the Nigerian government to bring to justice all those responsible for the unprovoked attacks on Zakzaky and his supporters.
On December 12, 2015, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him.
It seems that Nigerians have to fear not only the extremist group Boko Haram, but also official soldiers who have proved to carry out extrajudicial killings, where the soldiers act as merciless as insurgents that have been spreading death and destruction in the African country.
According to the Associated Press, farmers and villagers across Nigeria are being arrested upon allegations that they belong to the extremist group Boko haram. The stunning part of the story is that many of these detained people disappear and do not return.
According to the source, Nigerian soldiers detained a teacher and two middle-aged farmers in Duhu village. Some residents, who knew the men, insisted they did not belong to the extremist group, and marched to a nearby military base to demand their release.
The military denied detaining elementary school teacher Habu Bello and farmers Idrisa Dele and Umaru Hammankadi even though several villagers told the news agency they watched as the men were taken away by uniformed soldiers.
“If you have a problem with someone, you can influence the military to pick them up and then you will never hear about them again,” human rights lawyer Sunday Joshua Wugira told AP from his offices in the northeastern city of Yola, where police are investigating the January killings of three brothers from the Fulani tribe.
In one act of terror, AP reported that a teenager said she was captured last year by Boko Haram fighters who attacked her village and killed her father.
“Soldiers arrived to hunt down extremists, but interrogated my three brothers instead. Vigilantes then seized and killed them,” she said.
The girl did not only suffer from Boko Haram’s terror, but even worse from the terror of the Nigerian soldiers as well. The 16-year old girl was kidnapped by Boko Haram at 16 and raped in captivity; she was freed in November when soldiers attacked the extremist camp where she was being held. She tried to return to her home village, but had to flee again because vigilantes threatened to kill her unborn child, calling it a “terrorist baby,” she said.
“I don’t have any figures, but I can confirm to you that there have been a series of complaints about extrajudicial killings,” Duhu district leader Mustapha Sanusi said.
Since 2011, the military has been responsible for the deaths of some 8,000 detainees who were shot, starved or tortured, which counts more than a third of the estimated 20,000 people killed during the 6-year-old insurgency.
The AP report also said that refugees panicked in January when they found the trussed-up body of a refugee with his head bashed in at the Shettima Ali Monguno Teachers Village camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
“We now fear more for our safety because we cannot tell who is good or bad among us,” said one young refugee, insisting on anonymity for safety. “Our camp is well fenced and secured, yet one of us was murdered over the night.”
“People are living in fear and believe that at the end of the day they will never get justice,” said lawyer Wugira, who underlined that he has been offering free services yet due to this fear most disappearances go unchallenged.
A Nigerian Shia group says more than 700 of its members are still unaccounted for a month after the deadly attacks by Nigerian forces against Shia Muslims in the northern city of Zaria.
In a statement released on Thursday, Ibrahim Musa, the spokesman for the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), whose leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky is in police custody, said about 730 people have gone missing since December 12, 2015.
“These missing people were either killed by the army or are in detention” but their “whereabouts are still unknown and undisclosed,” Musa said.
He further noted that some 220 IMN members were in a prison, located in the city of Kaduna, the capital of the state with the same name, while others were in military custody elsewhere across the African state.
On December 12 last year, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the northern city of Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him. The Shias have categorically denied the allegations.
The following day, Nigerian forces also raided Zakzaky’s home and arrested him after reportedly killing those attempting to protect him, including one of the IMN’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
Both incidents led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the religious community, including three of Zakzaky’s sons. There has been no official death toll in the violence, but rights activists have put the number at over 1,000.
Musa said no Nigerian family had received a body for burial in the weeks since the Zaria violence.
The Shia cleric is said to have been charged with “criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbances.”
The IMN has called for Zakzaky’s unconditional release and for Abuja to respond to the “unjustifiable atrocities committed by the army.”
At the UN General assembly last fall there was an essential vote on the future of mankind. Resolution number A/RES/70/33 calling for the international society to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations had been submitted by Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Ireland, Kenya, Lichtenstein, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela. For that, these countries deserve our deep respect and gratitude. The resolution reminds us that all the peoples of the world have a vital interest in the success of nuclear disarmament negotiations, that all states have the right to participate in disarmament negotiations, and, at the same time, declares support for the UN Secretary – General’s five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament.
The resolution reiterates the universal objective that remains the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons, and emphasizes the importance of addressing issues related to nuclear weapons in a comprehensive, inclusive, interactive and constructive manner, for the advancement of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. The resolution calls on the UN to establish an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) of willing and responsible states to bring the negotiations on nuclear disarmament forward in this spirit.
When voted upon at the UNGA a month ago, on December 7, 2015, there was a huge majority of states (75 %) that supported the resolution, namely 138 of the 184 member states that were present. Most of them are from the global south, with majorities in Latin-America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific. After having shown such courage and wisdom, they all deserve to be named among the states of hope, states that want to sustain mankind on earth.
Only 12 states voted against the resolution. Guess who they are: China, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and the United States. What is wrong with them? Well, they are either nuclear-armed states or among the new NATO member states. They are the states of concern in today’s world. It is hypocritical that states that claim to be the protectors of freedom, democracy, and humanity constitute a small minority that refuse to enter into multilateral, inclusive, interactive and constructive negotiations to free the world from nuclear weapons. Among the three other nuclear-armed states, India and Pakistan had the civility to abstain, while the DPRK was the only one to vote “yes.”
Despite the reactionary, dangerous, and irresponsible position of the 12 states of concern and the tepid attitude of the abstainers, the OEWG was established by an overwhelming majority of the UNGA. The OEWG will convene in Geneva for 15 working days during the first half of 2016. The OEWG has no mandate to negotiate treaties to free the world of the inhuman nuclear weapons, but has clearly been asked to discuss and show how it can be achieved. Surely, the nations of hope that voted in favor of the OEWG will take part in the work. We can hope that at least some of the states of concern and some of the abstainers come to their senses and take part in this essential work for the future of mankind.
Participation in the OEWG is open for everyone and blockable by none. No matter what the states of concern do or don’t do, there is good reason to trust that the vast majority of nations of hope together with civil society from all over in the fall will present an outcome to the UNGA that will turn our common dream of a world free of nuclear weapons into a reality—perhaps sooner that we dare to believe.
Regarding the assassination of the martyr Samir el-Kuntar
– After a few days, there will be the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ – and on this anniversary, we extend our greetings to all the Christians and Muslims. A few days later, is the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Mohammed, and we extend our greetings to all the Muslims on this occasion and we ask God for the blessings of both these two prophets to extend mercy and security and happiness to all the region and to open the hearts and minds of all to love and mercy that these two great leaders brought to the world.
– Yesterday, we lost one of our brothers who shared in the birth of Hezbollah from its first hours and carried heavy responsibility for 33 years – el Sheikh Mohammed Khatoun. I shall speak more about him at the date of his funeral tomorrow. I extend condolences to his family and loved ones.
– Before I speak about the main event – I want to speak about what happened in Nigeria a few days ago – a massacre in Zariah. Hundreds were killed. Hundreds were injured. Hundreds were detained. We include our voice among the voices of all who condemned this massacre, and we condemn the silence of all those who chose to be silent – a horrific silence. There is talk of up to 1,000 killed. And we call on the Nigerian government and its political parties – to act with strength to hold those responsible and to have a national and humanitarian response. I worry that there are American or Israeli hands or Takfiri hands that are behind this horrific massacre – designed to create more bloodshed in Nigeria.
– Back to our main point of discussion
– The assassination of the General of the Political Prisoners in the Israeli Jails – the brother, the martyr, Samir el Quntar
– (1) The facts. We have no doubt that the Israeli enemy is the one behind the assassination. It was not a covert operation – but an open attack. The assassination was by Israeli jets – against a residential home, that specifically targeted Samir el Quntar and other fighters and civilians. Did the Israeli jets enter Syrian air space or the did the Israeli jets fly over occupied Golan Heights – that is a detail, one that does not change anything, unless the discussion is about Syria and Russia and today that is not our focus. What is clear is that it was an Israeli attack against a residential home in Geramana in the outskirts of Damascus. I extend condolences to all those martyred. Anyone who kills a man like Samir el Quntar does a service to Israel.
– (2) We know and Samir knew and the Israelis themselves did not hide – that Israel would not leave Samir el Quntar alive, from the first day of his release. The threat was alive throughout all the years, months, days. Israel was very open that it would not forgive him for his past nor on his strength and resilience in jail nor on his dedication to the resistance. Israel does not forgive – it is our governments that forgive the murderers of Deir Yassin to Qana. This talk by Israel was before the plan for building resistance in the occupied Golan Heights. We in Hezbollah hold the enemy Israel responsible for the assassination of Samir el Quntar
– (3) In this night I do not want to talk about the characteristics of this great martyr. I shall simply say tonight that Samir el Quntar was a lover of Palestine. Palestine was all his love and filled his heart and mind. Palestine’s destiny and the destiny of Palestine’s people and the future of the resistance was always his first and main focus. In our first visit upon liberation, he and I spoke – and we always leave options open – I told him that he has numerous options – politics, media, and military. He said then what he told others publicly: I left Palestine to return to Palestine. He told me that from this very moment I am ready to participate in any military operation, whether on the border with occupied Palestine or within occupied Palestine. I await my martyrdom, he said. It would be an honor to me to be a fighter, he said. That is Samir, that is his truth that we must say today. Does the enemy Israel imagine that by killing Samir and those like him that they can kill such love and passion and commitment and the vast sacrifice of the people of this nation? Many great leaders have been killed and tens of thousands of people have been martyred – in Palestine and Lebanon and Syria and Egypt and Jordan. And what was the result? Has this nation and these people and these generations given up on Palestine? NO. A generation grew up to inherit resistance and to give it to the next generation. The blood of Samir el Kuntar and those who passed before him – is that the resistance against Israel for liberation is a call that will not be broken, regardless of who will be killed and detained and tortured; this is a call that will not be broken. Look now at the people of occupied Palestine – this is a generation that is as old as Samir el Kuntar was when he went to occupied Palestine (i.e. 17). The youth of Palestine fight death with death. Tens of them have been martyred as they fight with knives – because that is their only option. They have entered terror in the hearts of the enemy. When we see a youth in her prime – such as (martyr) Ashraqat Tamami – and when I speak of her, I speak of all the youth of Palestine, I discovered that this youth (female) had a great deal of awareness and clarity and dedication and deep understanding to the cause that she wants to sacrifice for and to the understanding of the enemy and the friend, and for the calmness of her decision. Ashraqat is today a model for many of Palestine’s youth – who love with a passion the land and freedom. They carry the same passion that Samir el Quntar carried and it remained in his heart until a traitorous Israeli rocket killed him.
– (4) Our position. When Israel attacks, anywhere it chooses and how it chooses and in any time it does, it is the right of the resistance – anywhere, and any way, and in any place, and at any time. Today, I repeat: from now, any member of Hezbollah that is killed, we shall hold the responsibility to the Israelis and we shall consider it is our right to respond at any time, at any location, and in the manner we choose. We said this on the 30th of January 2015. Today, we say, to the enemy and to the friend, Samir el Quntar is one of us, and he is a leader in our resistance, and Israelis killed him, and it is our right to respond to his assassination in the time, place, and in the manner that we choose. That is our right. And I add – we, in Hezbollah, we shall fulfill this right.
– (5) In the same vein, the killing against Hezbollah and this resistance, comes the US actions that seek to target Hezbollah on a number of levels. Since the early 90s, we as a party have been on the terrorism list – as a political party and as individuals. And for decades, the Americans have tried to force this description on other countries; they were not successful. Such a description is not accepted by the UN, and the EU, only lately, considers the military wing on the terrorism list, and China and Russia do not consider us as such. What the Americans decided to do now – even though they support terrorism worldwide — is that they consider us a criminal organization and not terrorism, claiming that we are drug dealers and that we are money launderers and that the US Congress now seeks to investigate the accusation that we are human traffickers. These accusations are false and have no basis in truth. It is our duty to deny them. We are not due to show evidence of our innocence. It is their responsibility to show evidence – if they have any, although they have long made accusations without evidence. Clearly, these accusations are political – and it’s first objective is to show Hezbollah in a bad light. They are the ones who spent millions of dollars, as per their own Ambassador, to create propaganda against Hezbollah for the Arab youth. We have a strong example here: the international organization of nuclear energy presented a report about the Iranian nuclear energy – and they said that the Iranian nuclear energy is peaceful and at the very least, since 2009 until today, there is no evidence of anything military in the Iranian nuclear energy. They presented the evidence, and one of the panel of the international organization is an American and there was a consensus on the report! A full consensus. Let us remember that it was the Americans that accused Iran for years. Also the Europeans. And let’s not forget Netanyahu in many occasions, including his speech at the UN. Netanyahu should be a joke internationally and even for Israel – let’s remember his chart at UN when he said that Iran would have a nuclear bomb in a few months. And now we have this report – with consensus – that there is no evidence of military usage of Iran’s nuclear energy. Let’s remember that they were planning a war against Iran, and they enforced sanctions against more than 80 million people, and they threatened, unfortunately with some of their Arab collaborators. That is just one example of a political accusation. The accusations against us are small in comparison. With the battle against us, they won’t accuse us of getting nuclear weapons. This is what they have to say against – either terrorist or criminal. That is the end of their line. The line of their lie is short. The truth will eventually be exposed. We know, in front of God, in front of our people, in front of many people, this is not who we are. If they think their accusations are a propaganda war, it will fail. From a financial perspective, they have now forced upon international banks to freeze Hezbollah funds – well, this was closed a long time ago. We do not have funds in international banks. Now, they are also putting pressure on Lebanese banks and the Lebanese central bank – to put pressure on any organization that is claimed to be tied to Hezbollah. We also state today, and state it again, we have no funds in Lebanese banks, not in the past nor in the present, nor do we have funds that we put in any banks. Nor do we transfer our funds via Lebanese banks – so there is no need for either the Lebanese central bank or any Lebanese banks to feel fear of being chased by the Americans. Furthermore, as I have stated before and shall say again, we are not a business nor an investment. We do not have companies nor are we partners with any Lebanese merchants. Whatever funds we have, we give to our resistance and to the families of the injured and the martyrs. We do not have an extra penny that we invest or put in any fund.
– Based on this, we have to speak seriously about this – it is the responsibility of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Lebanese banks to protect the Lebanese consumers and merchants! It is enough that one sign come from the Americans for there to be an accusation against an individual, and these banks immediately follow. Does this country not have sovereignty? Not have its own courts? Its own state? There are Lebanese merchants and investors that are hurt. We are not hurt. But now if Americans want to target a particular political current or a particular community, all they do is give the names to the Lebanese banks! These are Lebanese who should be protected by the Lebanese State. I do not ask the Lebanese State to protect any member of Hezbollah – but at the very least, it is the responsibility of the State to protect the men and women of this country. No one is asking the State to declare war on the US, only to ask for evidence for these accusations and to take the evidence to the Lebanese courts. This has already begun — this subservience to the US!
– Furthermore, with regards to the media, whether it is part of our network (Manar and Nour) or accused of supporting us or even empathizing with us – they are being threatened! The US is accusing you and judging you in absentia and charging you and killing you and you are not allowed to speak and if you speak, your voice cannot reach anywhere in the world. That is the freedom and democracy of the United States. Your media is not allowed – and maybe it will reach the stage that any media that shows the truth will be accused of being pro-terrorism, while knowing of course that anyone with a Dish can see hundreds of channels that call for takfiri [intolerance] and for killing and raping and committing terrorism and destruction and occupation and violence; those channels are accepted. But you and your type of the resistance are targeted, and the real reason is Israel, and not our position in Yemen or otherwise, but the real reason is that you are a resistance! The intention is Resistance itself – the discourse, the culture, the knowledge base of Resistance!
– Media is part of the struggle. We will not surrender. We will look for all options and opportunities so that the voice of Resistance and the voice of all who reject the project of Israel and the US in the region – those voices will be heard. This is an ongoing struggle.
– What is more important about all these actions against us, is how we look upon all these actions. You can see the negative, but there is also the positive. The fact that Congress sits and meets and has consensus and continues to think about new ways to fight us – means that we are in the right place. They have given us more faith and strength. It shows that we are in the right struggle, the right battle, the right discourse. Who ever finds himself – knowingly or not – a partner with the US and Zionism, let him re-examine his nationalism and religion and ethics! These actions by the US are also a recognition of us, that we are not a small group with small consequences. It is a recognition that Hezbollah plays a large role in Lebanon and in the region in fighting the Israeli project and the hegemonic project. As part of the Resistance – and we don’t claim to fight alone, just as we didn’t fight alone in 1982 and since – there were many US projects of hegemony, we are part of this battle and not alone. That is why the US Congress needs to take these declarations with clear time lines — they take us seriously. We also say that we understand these actions, see how loving we are. We understand these actions. When we are enemies to each other, and this is a compliment to us – to be enemies to the US and to Israel and enemies to all who want to steal the riches of our people and to all who want to destroy our civilization, we understand that they would want to do all these things, and we also will not surrender in this battle. I say to the US and to Israel and to their allies in the region: all these actions against us, from sanctions and murders, you will not be able to erase us. All the actions against us and are planned against us – will only increase our commitment.
– May God have mercy on our great martyr Samir el Kuntar…
Translation by Rania Masri [not word for word]
Hussainiyyah Baqeeyatullah in Nigeria’s northern city of Zaria before its reported destruction
The Nigerian army has completely demolished a religious center belonging to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) following the recent massacre of Shia Muslims in the West African country.
The IMN’s website cited a local source as saying that the army bulldozed Hussainiyyah Baqeeyatullah in the northern city of Zaria in Kaduna State on Sunday.
This comes nearly a week after Nigerian soldiers opened fire on the people attending a religious ceremony at the site. Local media said more than a dozen people were killed during the December 12 raid.
The military accused the Shias of stopping the convoy of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and attempting to assassinate him. The IMN and its leader Ibrahim al-Zakzaky strongly rejected the assassination accusation.
IMN spokesman Ibrahim Usman also rejected an accusation by local officials that the movement had “blocked roads for four days” during the religious ceremony, which marked Arba’een, the fortieth day to follow the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the third Shia Imam.
One day later, Zakzaky was arrested during a raid by the army on his residence and the buildings connected to the Shia community in Zaria. Local sources say hundreds of people trying to protect the cleric, including three of his sons, were killed in the raid.
Nigerian Shia leader Ibrahim al-Zakzaky
Nigerian authorities say Shia leader Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, who has been arrested and whose family and supporters have faced a bloody crackdown, will face prosecution.
On Saturday, Nasir al-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State in north-central Nigeria, where Zakzaky was arrested in his home city of Zaria last week, said the cleric “will be prosecuted for any crimes that he may have committed,” Nigerian newspaper THISDAY reported on Sunday.
“That is the decision for the federal authorities. There are state and federal crimes,” the official added, making it clear that the case would be brought against the cleric by Abuja rather than local officials. “There is a government and a constitution and we are resolved to follow the constitution and due process.”
Nigerian forces raided the house of Zakzaky, the head of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), last Sunday and arrested him after reportedly killing individuals attempting to protect him, including one of the movement’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
Nigerian soldiers had opened fire on Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city the previous day, accusing the Shias of stopping the convoy of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and attempting to assassinate him. Zakzaky was planning a speech at the center, and the IMN has strongly rejected the assassination accusation.
The attack on Zakzaky’s residence and the violence during the road incident led to the deaths of hundreds of the members of the religious community, including three of Zakzaky’s sons.
The IMN spokesman, Ibrahim Usman, meanwhile, rejected the accusation by the governor that the movement had “blocked roads for four days” during the religious ceremony, which marked Arba’een, the fortieth day to follow the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the third Shia Imam.
“Clearly, this is a deliberate attempt to twist the facts. During the Arba’een symbolic treks, we block only limited part of the road, and this is to protect persons from traffic accidents, control mass movement and avoid chaos on the roads,” Usman said.
“The governor here was trying to give the impression of a complete occupation of a lane for four days. That was not the case. Blocks were only from junction to junction on the roads. The public was informed about these little inconveniences with apologies on public radio and television stations throughout the trek. Road users during the period would be surprised by the governor’s statement,” he said.
Shia Muslims in Nigeria march during a procession marking Arba’een. (File photo)
Rufai has also announced that a judicial commission of inquiry has been set up to look into the attack on the cleric’s residence.
The IMN has said it does not trust any likely findings by the state investigators, adding that authorities have refused to listen to the Shia community about what happened in Zaria and are only focusing on the army’s account.
After years of working with the government to develop a sustainable community agriculture system, over 40,000 Nigerians will now have to fend for themselves after their land was given away to U.S. food company Dominion Farms, international human rights groups told teleSUR Thursday.
“The land in question is taken from the farmers,” Raymond Nyayiti Enoch from the Center for Environmental Education and Development (CEED) Nigeria told teleSUR via email.
“Added still, they will have no alternative fertile land of food production because the Federal Government Agency, the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority (UBRBDA) have spent years developing the land and working with the farmers to boost food production in the way and manner beneficial to the farmers and their community,” he said.
A report was released Wednesday detailing a land grab case in the Gassol community in Nigeria’s northeastern Tabara State, where Dominion Farms has taken over a large swath of fertile community land in order to develop a 300-square-kilometer rice plantation.
The move comes as a shock to the communities, who were kept in the dark about the development decision and who had previously been working with the government to develop small-scale, community agriculture that they could depend on for food.
For years, the federal government has been trying to increase international investment in Nigeria’s agriculture sector in order to increase local food production and become a food exporter in order to increase GDP.
However, according to Enoch, potential economic benefits for the country come at a high price. The secretive way in which the government carried out the transaction with Dominion Farms could cause internal conflict, not only between the federal government and the tens of thousand of Nigerians affected by the sudden loss of land, but also with the government-led UBRBDA who the federal bodies involved excluded from the deal.
“It poses a potential conflict that would mar the production process even before its started,” said Enoch, who added that this will make it hard to attract further international investment.
Ange David, member of GRAIN, an international rights group that supports small farmers, said the government is taking the wrong tactic if its trying to improve its economy.
“Nigeria has a target to resolve the problem of employment, so how [will it] resolve it by this kind of ‘investment’ who will put more than 40,000 persons on the street or push [them] to leave their village and to join the urban zone like Abuja or Lagos,” David told teleSUR in an email, referring to two of the most populous cities in Nigeria that experience high poverty rates.
“As we know, the major occupation of the people of Taraba is agriculture,” said David. “So how can we imagine that this land grab can help that communities who will lose the land for ever.”
According to Enoch, this is the first major land grab in Nigeria, with several others “looming” across the country, including in the same state of Tabara.
Nigeria is one of the many countries around the world being affected by U.S. multinational companies and their land grabbing strategies.
In Sierra Leone, a western African nation embattled by Ebola, the people have joined forces to combat another virus, that of “multinational companies,” which have recently taken advantage of the poverty stricken communities to buy up their lands at negligible prices. This only benefits the corporations, leaving the population without the possibility of cultivating their own land.
The Nigerian military announced on Friday that it reached a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist militant movement, Boko Haram, and that the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram will be returned to their families.
Air Chief Marshal Badeh first spoke about the truce after a three day meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon. The BBC is reporting that the negotiations were mediated by Chad.
An official with Nigeria’s security forces told Reuters “Commitment among parts of Boko Haram and the military does appear to be genuine … It is worth taking seriously.”
Boko Haram has not made any statement about a truce.
The school girls were abducted from Chibok, a town in the northeastern state of Borno state, six months ago. Through the efforts of Nigerian women activists, the kidnapping of the girls became an international cause and brought Boko Haram onto the world stage. The Nigerian government has been strongly criticized by local as well as international human rights groups for its “lackluster” efforts to retrieve the girls. The release of the girls will be finalized next week in Ndjamena, Chad’s capital.
The Nigerian government spokesperson said that Boko Haram will not be given any land, but that the national government will not say what compromises it has made toward the militant group.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 and has been fighting with the Nigerians military since 2009. More than 2,000 civilians have been killed this year in this conflict.
On May 23, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) trade show in Tampa, Florida to share her vision of “smart power” and to explain the State Department’s crucial role in extending the reach and efficacy of America’s growing “international counterterrorism network.”
First, there is such a thing as a “Special Operations Forces Industry Conference trade show.” Without some keen reporting by David Axe of Wired, that peculiar get-together might’ve flown completely under the radar—much like the shadowy “industry” it both supports and feeds off of like a sleek, camouflaged lamprey attached to a taxpayer-fattened shark.
Second, “special operations” have officially metastasized into a full-fledged industry. United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and, therefore, conveniently located near the special operations trade show, which happened again this year at the Tampa Convention Center. The theme was “Strengthening the Global SOF Network” and the 600,000-square-foot facility was filled with targets of opportunity for well-connected and well-heeled defense contractors.
According to the SOFIC website, this year’s conference afforded attendees “the opportunity to engage with USSOCOM Program Executive Officers, Science and Technology Managers, Office of Small Business Programs and Technology & Industry Liaison Office representatives, and other acquisition experts who will identify top priorities, business opportunities, and interests as they relate to USSOCOM acquisition programs.”
Third, Hillary’s widely-ignored speech marked a radical departure from the widely-held perception that the State Department’s diplomatic mission endures as an institutional alternative to the Pentagon’s military planning. Instead, Secretary Clinton celebrated the transformation of Foggy Bottom into a full partner with the Pentagon’s ever-widening efforts around the globe, touting both the role of diplomats in paving the way for shadowy special ops in so-called “hot spots” and the State Department’s “hand-in-glove” coordination with Special Forces in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
Finally, with little fanfare or coverage, America’s lead diplomat stood before the shadow war industry and itemized the integration of the State Department’s planning and personnel with the Pentagon’s global counter-terrorism campaign which, she told the special operations industry, happen “in one form or another in more than 100 countries around the world.”
If this isn’t entirely unexpected, consider the fact that under then-Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the State Department fought attempts by the Pentagon to trump its authority around the globe and, as reported by the Washington Post, “repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval.”
But that was before Hillary brought her “fast and flexible” doctrine of “smart power” to Foggy Bottom and, according to her remarks, before she applied lessons learned from her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee to launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. That Pentagon-style review spurred the creation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to “advance the U.S. government’s foreign policy goals in conflict areas.”
According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, the initial intent of the Conflict Bureau was to replace the ineffectual Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization, which was created in 2004 to help manage “stabilization” efforts in two nations the U.S. was actively destabilizing—Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the new, improved bureau does more than just react to messes made by unlawful invasions or direct costly remediation efforts in war zones—it also collaborates with “relevant partners” in the Department of Defense and NATO “to harmonize civilian and military plans and operations pertaining to conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization.”
This integrated relationship between State and Defense was confirmed by U.S. Special Operations chief Admiral William McRaven shortly after Hillary’s speech. When asked about the “unlikely partnership,” McRaven assured DefenseNews that SOCOM has “an absolutely magnificent relationship with the State Department” and that SOCOM doesn’t “do anything that isn’t absolutely fully coordinated and approved by the U.S. ambassador and the geographic combatant commander.”
As David Axe aptly described it in Wired, “Together, Special Operations Forces and State’s new Conflict Bureau are the twin arms of an expanding institution for waging small, low-intensity shadow wars all over the world.”
In fact, during Hillary’s time as America’s chief diplomat, the State Department embraced the shadowy edge of U.S. foreign policy where decision-makers engage in activities that look like war, sound like war and, if you were to ask civilians in places like Yemen and Pakistan, feel a lot like war, but never quite have to meet the Constitutional requirement of being officially declared as war.
The Whole-of-Government Shift
Once upon a time, “low-intensity shadow wars” were the Congressionally-regulated bailiwick of the Central Intelligence Agency. But 9/11 changed everything. However, the excesses of the Bush Administration led many to hope that Obama could and would change everything back or, at least, relax America’s tense embrace of “the dark side.”
Although the new administration did officially re-brand “The War on Terror” as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” Team Obama employed an increasingly elastic interpretation of the 9/11-inspired Authorization for Use of Military Force and expanded covert ops, special ops, drone strikes and regime change to peoples and places well-beyond the law’s original intent, and certainly beyond the limited scope of CIA covert action.
Obama’s growing counter-terrorism campaign—involving, as Secretary Clinton said, “more than 100 countries”—took flight with a new, ecumenical approach called the “Whole-of-Government” strategy. Advanced by then-Secretary of Defense Bill Gates and quickly adopted by the new administration in early 2009, this strategy catalyzed an institutional shift toward inter-agency cooperation, particularly in the case of “state-building” (a.k.a. “nation building”).
During remarks to the Brookings Institution in 2010, Secretary Clinton explained the shift: “One of our goals coming into the administration was… to begin to make the case that defense, diplomacy and development were not separate entities, either in substance or process, but that indeed they had to be viewed as part of an integrated whole and that the whole of government then had to be enlisted in their pursuit.”
Essentially, the Whole-of-Government approach is a re-branded and expanded version of Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full-Spectrum Dominance.” Coincidentally, that strategy was featured in the Clinton Administration’s final Annual Report to the President and Congress in 2001. It defined “Full-Spectrum Dominance” as “an ability to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with forces tailored to specific situations and possessing freedom to operate in all domains—space, sea, land, air, and information.”
In 2001, Full-Spectrum Dominance referred specifically to 20th Century notions of battlefield-style conflicts. But the “dark side” of the War on Terror stretched the idea of the battlefield well-beyond symmetrical military engagements. “Irregular warfare” became the catchphrase du jour, particularly as grinding campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed the reality that the full spectrum still wasn’t enough.
An assessment by the Congressional Research Service identified the primary impetus for the Whole-of-Government “reforms” embraced by Team Obama as the “perceived deficiencies of previous inter-agency missions” during the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those missions failed to address a myriad of problems created—culturally, economically and politically—by the wholesale bombing and occupation of those countries. The Full-Spectrum was half-baked. Lesson learned.
But the lesson wasn’t that the U.S. should avoid intervention, regime change or unleashing nascent civil, ethnic or religious conflicts. Instead, the lesson was that the “Whole-of-Government” must be marshaled to fight a worldwide array of Overseas Contingency Operations in “more than 100 countries.”
This Whole-of-Government shift signaled a renewed willingness to engage on variety of new fronts—particularly in Africa—but in a “fast and flexible” way. With other agencies—like the State Department—integrated and, in effect, fronting the counter-terrorism campaign, the military footprint becomes smaller and, therefore, easier to manage locally, domestically and internationally.
In some ways, the Whole-of-Government national security strategy is plausible deniability writ-large through the cover of interagency integration. By merging harder-to-justify military and covert actions into a larger, civilian-themed command structure, the impact of the national security policy overseas is hidden—or at least obfuscated—by the diplomatic “stabilization” efforts run through the State Department—whether it’s the Conflict Bureau working against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, “stabilizing” post-Gaddafi Libya or spending $27 million to organize the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
The Pass Key
The cover of diplomacy has traditionally been an effective way to slip covert operators into countries and the State Department’s vast network of embassies and consulates still offers an unparalleled “pass-key” into sovereign nations, emerging hot spots and potential targets for regime change. In 2001, the Annual Report to the President and Congress foresaw the need for more access: “Given the global nature of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain the ability to rapidly project power worldwide in order to achieve full-spectrum dominance.”
Having the way “pre-paved” is, based on Hillary’s doctrinal shift at State, a key part of the new, fuller-spectrum, Whole-of-Government, mission-integrated version of diplomacy. At the SOFIC’s Special Operations Gala Dinner in 2012, Hillary celebrated the integration of diplomatic personnel and Special Operations military units at the State Department’s recently created Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications—a “nerve center in Washington” that coordinates “military and civilian teams around the world” and serves “as a force multiplier for our embassies’ communications efforts.”
As with most doors in Washington, that relationship swings both ways and mission-integrated embassies have served as an effective force multiplier for the Pentagon’s full spectrum of activities, particularly around Africa.
In his 2011 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Don Yamamoto noted that State had “significantly expanded the number of DoD personnel who are integrated into embassies across the continent over the past three years,” and read a surprisingly long laundry list of collaborative efforts between State and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), including: “reduction of excess and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS); Defense Sector Reform in Liberia, DRC, and South Sudan; counterpiracy activities off the Somali coast; maritime safety and security capacity building; and civil-military cooperation.”
It seems that “civil-military cooperation” is a primary focus of the State Department in Africa. Most notably, Yamamoto told Congress that “embassies implement Department of State-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, which further U.S. interests in Africa by helping to professionalize African militaries, while also assisting our African partners to be more equipped and trained to work toward common security goals.”
As the ever-vigilant Nick Turse recently reported, U.S. presence on the continent has only grown since that testimony was given in 2011. On TomDispatch.com, Turse identified the infamous attack on Benghazi on September 11, 2012 as the catalyst for “Operation New Normal”—the continent-wide response to, quite ironically, the political potboiler still simmering around Secretary Clinton. Whether or not Congressional Republicans find anything more than incompetence at the root of Benghazi, the U.S. military certainly finds itself in a “new normal” of increased activity in response to the forces—and the weaponry—unleashed by U.S.-led regime change in Libya. According to Turse, the U.S. is “now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.”
Those missions are, of course, integrated with and augmented by the State Department’s Conflict Bureau which has used a variety of state-building programs and its diplomatic “pass key” in places like Libya, Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and six other African nations, all to develop a growing roster of “host country partners.”
Establishing “host country partners” is the nexus where the State Department, its Conflict Bureau and the AFRICOM meet—implementing the Whole-of-Government strategy in emerging or current conflict zones to fuse a mounting counter-terrorism campaign with stabilization, modernization and state-building initiatives, particularly in oil and resource-rich areas like the Niger River Delta, Central Africa and around AFRICOM’s military foothold on the Horn of Africa.
As Richard J. Wilhelm, a Senior Vice President with defense and intelligence contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, pointed out in a video talk about “mission integration,” AFRICOM’s coordination with the Departments of State and Commerce, USAID is the “most striking example of the Whole-of-Government approach.”
And this is exactly the type of “hand-in-glove” relationship Secretary Clinton fostered throughout her tenure at State, leveraging the resources of the department in a growing list of conflict areas where insurgents, terrorists, al-Qaeda affiliates, suspected militants or uncooperative regimes threaten to run afoul of so-called “U.S. interests”.
Ultimately, it became a hand-in-pocket relationship when Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates developed the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) to “incentivize joint planning and to pool the resources of the Departments of State and Defense, along with the expertise of other departments, to provide security sector assistance for partner countries so they can address emergent challenges and opportunities important to U.S. national security.”
Although he’s been criticized as feckless and deemed less hawkish than Secretary Clinton, President Obama’s newly-proposed Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) is the logical extension of the Clinton-Gates Global Security Contingency Fund and epitomizes the Whole-of-Government shift.
The $5 billion Obama wants will dwarf the $250 million pooled into the GSCF and will, the President said at West Point, “give us flexibility to fulfill different missions including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.”
That “flexibility” is exactly what Hillary Clinton instituted at State and touted at the SOFIC conference in 2012. It also portends a long-term shift to less invasive forms of regime change like those in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and an increased mission flexibility that will make the Authorization for the Use of Military Force functionally irrelevant.
Normalizing the War on Terror
The ultimate outcome of this shift is, to borrow from Nick Turse, yet another “new normal”—the new normalization of the War on Terror. What the adoption of the Whole-of-Government/mission integration approach has done is to normalize the implementation of the re-branded War on Terror (a.k.a. Overseas Contingency Operations) across key agencies of the government and masked it, for lack of the better term, under the rubric of stabilization, development and democracy building.
It is, in effect, the return of a key Cold War policy of “regime support” for clients and “regime change” for non-client states, particularly in strategically-located areas and resource-rich regions. Regimes—whether or not they actually “reflect American values”—can count on U.S. financial, military and mission-integrated diplomatic support so long as they can claim to be endangered… not by communists, but by terrorists.
And because terrorism is a tactic—not a political system or a regime—the shadowy, State Department-assisted Special Ops industry that fights them will, unlike the sullen enthusiasts of the Cold War, never be bereft of an enemy.
The Pentagon has been secretly backing a U.S. Special Operations program to build elite units to fight “terrorism” in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali, the New York Times revealed Monday.
The program was launched last year and is backed by millions of dollars in classified Pentagon funds. U.S. military trainers, including members of the Green Berets and Delta Force, are working with African “commandos” to “build homegrown African counterterrorism teams,” according to the Times.
According to the reporting, $70 million in Pentagon funds is going towards “training, intelligence-gathering equipment and other support” for commandos in Nigeria and Mauritania. And $16 million is going towards commandos in Libya. In Mauritnaia, $29 million has been allotted for “logistics and surveillance equipment in support of the specialized unit.” According to the Times, the program in Mali “has yet to get off the ground as a new civilian government recovers from a military coup last year.”
The U.S. military has for years been increasing its role across the continent of Africa, including the expansion of AFRICOM, drone attacks in Somalia, air strikes and arms shipments to Libya, and more.