By EMEKA Mamah
Three people were feared dead and several others injured when members of the Islamic fundamentalists (Shiites) clashed with the police in Zaria Kaduna State, during their annual procession.
The Shiites had earlier in the day held a peaceful demonstration along some major streets in Kaduna metropolis under heavy police escort without any incident.
The development caused panic in both Kaduna and Zaria even as the state government assured security agencies were on top of the situation.
The Shiite movement under the leadership of Sheikh Ibrahim El_Zakzaky had last week raised an alarm alleging that the government was planning to attack and decimate its membership.
They said that contingents of security men were stationed in and around El_Zakzakyâ€™s residence with a view to carrying out the attack.
However, the Shiite movement embarked on its annual procession to express its support for Palestinians in its ongoing face off with Israel.
Saturday Vanguard could not immediately get full details on what led to the clash, but it was gathered that acting on security report, the police stationed their men in strategic positions especially around the Kofan DokaÂ area of Zaria with the aim ofÂ preventing a breakdown ofÂ law and order.
Security sources said that intelligent reports had revealed that the Shiite had planned to attack the police, and thus mobilized their men to prevent the impending attack on themÂ and to secure the lives and property of the people of the area.
It was further gathered that an assistant superintendent of police who was controlling traffic around the area was attacked by the group and allegedly snatched his gun, shooting him in the process.
The security source said further that in an effort to escape from the scene, the mobile policemen stationed around the area who heard the gunshots moved in swiftly to retrieve the seized gun from the fleeing members of the Shiite.
However, sources close to the Shiites said that the procession which began on a peaceful note turned violent with the arrival of armed policemen and soldiers who started shooting sporadically, causing stampede with people scampering for safety at Kofar Doka, Tudun Wada area of the Zaria.
The injured police officer was said to have been rushed to the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching hospital, (ABUTH) Shika, Zaria, where he is now lying critically ill. The corpses of the three dead persons were also said to have been deposited at the mortuary of the same hospital.
The State Commissioner of Police, Tambari Mohammed said he was on his way to the scene of the incident â€œto assess the situation.â€
Also, the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Umar Sani said that there was no cause for alarm as security agencies were in control of the situation.
Last week, the National Coordinator of the Shiiteâ€™s Resource Forum, Dr. Abdullahi Danlandi said in a statement dated September 11, 2009 that there was a high level security meeting in Abuja where the decision was taken to â€œphase out members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (Shiite)â€.
According to him, in the statement entitled â€œNigerian government planned onslaught on the Islamic Movement exposedâ€ that â€œa leaked security report reveals high level decision and consultations, some of which are currently being implemented. Close sources confirmed that the planned onslaught on the Islamic Movement was divided into long term and short term plans.
â€œPart of the short term plan is to take full advantage of the upcoming world wide Quds Day procession slated for Friday September 20, 2009 which the Islamic movement had been peacefully conducting for the past thirty years, to attack the procession under the pretext of maintaining law and order.
â€œAlready, plain clothes security operatives have been stationed in and around Zaria city and environs â€¦ to set the state for action. According to the report, a special squad tagged â€œanti terrorist squad were formed and dispatched to Zaria, Kano, Katsina and Delta and other states to actualise the set objectives.
â€œThe report was specific on Zaria where it said that security operatives will unleash massive massacre by way of indiscriminate shooting of those who will take part in the procession and onlookers. Security operatives stationed in Zaria are awaiting ordersâ€¦ and consequently the shooting and attack will spread to neigbouring towns in Zaria under the guise of hunting for the fleeing members of the movementâ€¦â€