PANIC, TENSION IN ABUJA OVER SHIITES INVASION

Molly Kilete, Abuja

There was tension in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, yesterday, following the overrunning of the nation’s capital by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), in a one million-man march.

The group, which started arriving the FCT, over the weekend, beat all the military checkpoints at all the entry and exit points of the FCT.

The group, also known as Shiites, who arrived in their thousands, were, however intercepted at Mararaba by personnel of the FCT Police Command, who prevented them from moving to the national mosque, where they planned to carry out the march.

Before clashing with the police at Mararaba, Sunday, the group had attacked a convoy of soldiers providing escort for ammunition and missiles from Abuja to the Army Central Ammunition Depot in Kaduna State on the ever-busy Abuja/Kaduna expressway.

The soldiers came under attack at Zuba, where the Shiites mounted several roadblocks and prevented motorists and other road users from travelling. They started throwing stones and other dangerous objects at the soldiers and destroyed their vehicles.

The soldiers, who tried to defend themselves and the weapons their were carrying, opened fire on the crowd, leading to the killing of three members of the group, with at least 10 others wounded.

This is just as soldiers from the Guards Brigade, Nigerian Army, have barricaded all the entry and exit routes of the FCT.

The soldiers have also created snap checkpoints in various parts of the FCT, to ensure the Shiites do not have access into Abuja.

Daily Sun gathered that the soldiers also conducted condone-and-search operations on virtually all vehicles coming into Abuja from Abaji, Gwagwalada, Zuba, Bwari, Dutse, Keffi, Kuje and Mararaba, among other entry routes.

Military sources told Daily Sun that the IMN members in their hundreds have so far been confined to the Suleja axis. The source, who did not want to be named, also said the army, along the police and other security agencies, have been put on red alert to ensure the protection of innocent residents of the FCT.

The commander of the Guards Brigade, Brig-Gen. Musa, told Daily Sun the brigade was on top of the situation and called on residents to cooperate with the army and other security agencies to curb the menace of the group.

Meanwhile, despite the checkpoints put in place by the Guards Brigade, the police and other agencies, members of the Shiite group have found their way into the Federal Capital Territory in their thousands to protest the continuous detention of their leader and celebrate the Arbaeen symbolic trek.

The Shiites, who started arriving Abuja over the weekend from different parts of the country, were said to have beaten all the checkpoints mounted by the soldiers, who also conducted a search on all vehicles, after they discovered that the soldiers were arresting only people wearing the traditional black outfits of the group.

It was gathered that, while some of those wearing black were arrested, others were turned back and prevented from entering the FCT.

Sources said those who were turned back went and told their colleagues, who disguised and gained access into the FCT.

As at about 2 p.m., Sunday, the group had gained access to the popular Kubwa road and some parts of Gwarinpa, but met stiff resistance from the police, who prevented them from moving further.

Meanwhile, some residents of the FCT have decided not to go to work, if nothing is done to safeguard their life and property.

As early as 4am, a text message about the activities of the sect started circulating to alert residents of the Shiites’ presence and their movement.

The text message read, “There is ongoing protest/Arbaeen symbolic trek in Abuja by followers of El-Zakzaky for three days in Abuja from Sunday, October 28, to Tuesday, October 29. Please, plan your movement. There will be impact on traffic everywhere in and around Abuja, Nasarawa and Niger State, as thousands of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky’s followers are trekking down to Abuja. Tell your family and be careful.”

At Mararaba, men from the FCT Police Command battled for several hours to prevent the Shiites from entering the city.

The police, who arrived Maraba in more than 15 trucks, did everything possible to ensure the Shiite group did not have their way.

Police, however, attributed their successful access into the FCT to some residents who were sympathetic to their cause, many of them around the Mararaba axis.

Commander of the Guards Brigade, Musa, said the brigade, which is in charge of the security of the President, his family as well as the FCT and its surrounding states, are on standby and instill law and order in the city.

Musa said troops would move in only when the police are unable to contain the situation.

“We are on top of the situation and managing it very well. Right now, we are at the background for now; it is only when the police are unable to manage the situation that we will move in but I can assure you that everything is under control for now,” he said.

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