The embattled leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky, was flown out of Nigeria for treatment of gun shot injuries he suffered during the encounter between his supporters and members of the Nigerian Army last year.
It will be recalled that during the bloody encounter between the Shiites and the Nigerian Army, several members of the sect were killed, while many others sustained various degrees of injuries with some still on admission at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shika near Zaria.
The fracas occurred when members of the sect allegedly blocked the Zaria-Sokoto road and prevented the convoy of the Chief of Army staff from passing through, despite several entreaties.
Sheikh El-Zakzaky allegedly sustained several gun shot wounds, with some reports claiming that one of his eyes was affected during the encounter.
Since the clash between the sect and the military, his whereabouts have been shrouded in secrecy until it was revealed that he was moved from Kaduna to a safe house in Abuja belonging to one of the security services.
Several security sources who are knowledgeable in the matter, however, revealed to Vanguard yesterday that due to the seriousness of the injuries the Shiite leader sustained, he was secretly flown to France by the Nigerian government some weeks ago for treatment before being returned to the country two weeks ago.
One of the sources said: “It is true that the federal government flew him out of the country for treatment. He was stabilized before he was brought back to Nigeria. The government did not want to take chances by keeping him in the country. We did not want a repeat of the incidenct with the late leader of the Boko Haram movement whose death in custody exacerbated the crisis in the North East.”
Another source explained that the decision to fly El Zakzaky out of the country followed intervention by highly placed Nigerians, including the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, who warned that allowing the Shiite leader to die in custody would have grave implications for the security of the country.
Spokesman of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim Musa, confirmed to Vanguard that members of the NSCIA committee confirmed to the IMN that their leader was alive, after being treated for gun shot injuries in France and was recuperating in Abuja.