Amnesty International Uses Satellite Imaging To Uncover Shi’ites Massacre In Zaria
SAN FRANCISCO, April 22 (THEWILL) – The Amnesty International, AI has alleged that officials of the Nigerian Army made concerted efforts to conceal the massacre of over 350 Nigerian citizens, including women and children between December 12-14, 2015 following the clash between the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff and Shi'ite members in Zaria, Kaduna state.
In a newly-released report about the killings, Amnesty International said it was able to use satellite imaging to uncover evidence of a possible mass grave in Zaria neighbourhood of Mando, claiming that after the incident, the military sealed off the areas around the leader of the sect, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky's compound, the Hussainiyya and other locations.
It added that bodies were taken away, sites were razed to the ground, the rubble removed, bloodstains washed off, and bullets and spent cartridge removed from the streets.
The report, titled: “Unearthing the truth: Unlawful killings and mass cover-up in Zaria”, is based on interviews with 92 people, including victims, witnesses from the Shi'ite and other communities, relatives of victims, residents of the areas where the incidents took place, lawyers and medical personnel and contains shocking eyewitness testimony of large-scale unlawful killings by the Nigerian military and exposes a crude attempt by the authorities to destroy and conceal evidence.
Amnesty International's Research and Advocacy Director for Africa, Netsanet Belay said: “The true horror of what happened over those two days in Zaria is only now coming to light. Bodies were left littered in the streets and piled outside the mortuary. Some of the injured were burned alive.”
“Our research, based on witness testimonies and analysis of satellite images, has located one possible mass grave. It is time now for the military to come clean and admit where it secretly buried hundreds of bodies.”
A senior medical source told Amnesty International that the military sealed off the area around the morgue for two days. During that time he saw army vehicles “coming and going”. Witnesses saw piles of bodies outside the morgue of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria.
A witness described to Amnesty International what he saw outside the hospital mortuary on the evening of 14 December: “It was dark and from far I could only see a big mound but when I got closer I saw it was a huge pile of corpses on top of each other. I have never seen so many dead bodies. I got very scared and run away. It was a terrible sight and I can't get it out of my mind.”
Another witness told AI how he had seen diggers excavating holes at the site of the suspected mass grave: “There were five or six large trucks and several smaller military vehicles and they spent hours digging and unloading the trucks' cargo into the hole they dug and then covered it again with the earth they had dug out. They were there from about 1 or 2 am until about 5 am. I don't know what they buried. It looked like bodies, but I could not get near.”
The organization identified and visited the location of a possible mass grave near Mando. Satellite images of the site taken on 2 November and 24 December 2015 show disturbed earth spanning an area of approximately 1000 square metres. Satellite pictures also show the complete destruction of buildings and mosques.
“It is clear that the military not only used unlawful and excessive force against men, women and children, unlawfully killing hundreds, but then made considerable efforts to try to cover-up these crimes,” said Netsanet Belay.
“Four months after the massacre the families of the missing are still awaiting news of their loved ones. A full independent forensic investigation is long overdue. The bodies must be exhumed, the incident must be impartially and independently investigated and those responsible must be held to account.”