22 Muslims massacred in vicious attack in central Nigeria
Assailants in Nigeria ambushed buses carrying Muslims, killing at least 22 of them and injuring 14 others in the West African country.
The attack took place in the central Nigerian Plateau State on Saturday, according to the state police, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
It cited the provincial police force’s spokesperson, Ubah Ogaba as describing the victims as Muslims travelling in five buses “from Bauchi State to Ondo State."
The victims had just partaken in “the Annual Zikr” ceremony, he added, referring to a prayer session partaken by many Muslims that features religious recitations, he said.
He said the attackers were "suspected to be Irigwe (a local ethnic group) youths and their sympathizers," the official noted.
A security operation saved 21 people at the scene and led to the arrest of six suspects.
Ondo’s Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, meanwhile, described the incident as a potential case of “mistaken identity.”
He suggested that the assailants could have been Christian militants. “They may have been possibly, mistaken” by the aggressors,” Akeredolu added.
The central government itself is denounced for conducting a years-long deadly crackdown on Shia Muslims belonging to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
Abuja’s campaign has cost the lives of more than 300 of the IMN’s followers.
The country had been holding the movement’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky in dire conditions in prison for years before a court recently ordered his release.
Apart from the campaign, the country is also accused of subjecting other members of its Muslim community to heavily discriminatory and restrictive policies.
President Buhari says killing of Muslim travelers was 'prearranged'
In a statement, President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the deadly ambush. "It is clear this was a well-conceived and prearranged assault on a known target, location and religious persuasion of the travellers, not an opportunist ambush," Buhari said.
"A direct, brazen and wickedly motivated attack on members of a community exercising their rights to travel freely and to follow the faith of their choosing."
Nigeria has been plagued by violence in recent years: conflicts between farmers and cattle herders have killed thousands, while a 12-year war against militant groups has led to an estimated 350,000 deaths.