The Nigerian Army has used President Donald Trump’s own words about the use of force against migrants throwing stones to justify shooting at Shia Muslim protesters.
The army posted a now-deleted tweet featuring a video of Mr Trump encouraging armed troops to shoot at any Central American refugees and migrants who throw rocks at authorities when crossing the US border. “Please watch and make your deductions,” the tweet read.
It was a response to criticism from human rights groups that the military had opened fire on peaceful protesters. The US Embassy in Abuja, the site of the protests, called for a “thorough investigation” to “hold accountable those responsible for violations of Nigerian law”.
In the video, Mr Trump said armed troops should consider equating rock-throwing with shooting from a rifle. He also said the US military is trained to fight back against anyone in the migrant caravan who throw rocks at soldiers. “We’re not going to put with that,” the president said in the video. “They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back.”
Nigerian Military Spokesman John Agim said the video was tweeted in response to criticism from Amnesty International that the army used “unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police” by shooting at about 1,000 Shia Muslims.
“We released that video to say if President Trump can say that rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International?” Mr Agim told The New York Times. “What are they then saying? What did David use to kill Goliath? So a stone is a weapon.”
On Monday, Nigerian soldiers shot at Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) supporters when they were marching the streets of Abuja, the country’s capital as part of days of protest during which 400 Shia Muslims have been arrested. The protesters were demanding the release of its leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, an outspoken Shia cleric, who has been detained since 2015.
The deadly clashes between the protesters and Nigerian security forces began when the authorities prohibited them from passing through a checkpoint during their march. According to video footage, heavily armed soldiers opened fire after protestors hurled rocks at them. The Nigerian military claims six people were killed. The IMN said that the military killed at least 49 people with their live bullets. Amnesty International put the death toll at 45 said there is evidence of police and soldiers using automatic weapons to kill the protesters.
The most populous country is almost equally divided with Sunni Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. Shia Muslims, however, are an often persecuted religious minority. Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, labels Shia as “heretics” and demands that they be killed.
The Nigerian army’s justification for killing protesters highlights a growing concern about whether Mr Trump’s hostile rhetoric incites violence and chaos. Last week, Cesar Sayoc Jr—a supporter of Mr Trump—was arrested for allegedly mailing explosive devices to CNN’s New York headquarters.
Mr Trump is often seen and heard starting “CNN Sucks” chants at his rallies. He also praised a politician for body slamming a journalist, as well as, accused the free press of being “the true enemy of the people” and “fake news.” A few days ago, three white men seeking a lenient prison sentence after being convicted for plotting to bomb Somali Muslim refugees in Kansas filed a sentencing memorandum blaming the president’s Islamophobic rhetoric for persuading them to do so.
“The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mould-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president,” the memo read. “Trump’s brand of rough-and-tumble verbal pummelling heightened the rhetorical stakes for people of all political persuasions.”
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