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Cablegate: Islamic Scholar Gunned Down in Sokoto

VZCZCXRO8234
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHGI RUEHJS RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW
RUEHROV
DE RUEHUJA #1558/01 2011305
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201305Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0321
INFO RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0458
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 7450
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 0459
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001558

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KISL NI
SUBJECT: ISLAMIC SCHOLAR GUNNED DOWN IN SOKOTO

ABUJA 00001558 001.2 OF 002


THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Nigerian press reported that Umaru
Hamza Dan-Maishiya, a prominent Islamic scholar and imam,
died from wounds sustained after three gunmen opened fire as
evening prayers at the Shehu Usmanu Dan Fodio Mosque in
Sokoto on July 18. Nigerian daily This Day reports that two
suspects have been arrested while another remains at large.
Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Abubakar appealed for calm, noting
that joint military and police patrols were being dispatched
throughout Sokoto metropolis to attenuate tensions. The
death of an outspoken Sunni scholar has precipitated fears
that members of Sokoto's minority Shia community may be
behind the attack. Following a formal announcement of
Dan-Maishiya's death on July 19, a peaceful protest calling
on the government to investigate the murder spiraled into a
violent confrontation between several hundred of the city's
Sunni and Shia youth; an unidentified man was reportedly
killed in the violence. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Dan-Maishiya's killing comes months after a similar
shooting on April 13 that took the life of Kano-based Shaykh
Ja'afar Adamu. On April 15, BBC News reported that several
hundred "Nigerian Taleban" attacked a police outpost in the
Panshekara suburbs of Kano city. Several "Taleban" and
police officials were reportedly killed in the attack.
Subsequent investigations revealed that the attackers may
have, in fact, been acting alone and may have numbered fewer
than twenty. The motivation for the attack remains unknown,
however, indications have emerged that the attackers were
protesting the security services' inability to protect
Shaykh's Ja'afar's killing.

3. (SBU) Although the overwhelming majority of Nigerian
Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam, a significant, vociferous
minority of Shia Muslims reside in parts of the North,
including Zaria, Bauchi, and Sokoto. While Sunni and Shia
Muslims have generally maintained convivial relations in
Sokoto, the sects clashed in June 2005 over a botched Shia
attempt to take over the central Sultan Bello Mosque.
Nigerian newspaper "Vanguard" claims that Dan-Maishiya was
"said to have spearheaded" the 2005 take over of the mosque;
however, former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in
Sokoto, Muhammadu Dingiyadi, who also served as the
Democratic People's Party (DPP) gubernatorial candidate in
April 2007 was rumored to have been behind the failed take
over. In press reports at the time, Dingiyadi neither
confirmed nor denied his alleged participation in the plot to
capture the mosque nor did he dissociate himself from the
Shia community, of which he was believed to be an integral
member. Dingiyadi's presumed association with the Shia
community and alleged involvement in the 2005 incident were
seen to hamper his chances for victory at the April polls.

4. (SBU) In northern Nigeria, Sunni Islam is further
delineated into three prevailing sects: Tijaniyya/Qadiriyya,
tariqa, and Izala. Shia Islam, on the other hand, maintains
its homogeneity and was introduced largely by Ibrahim Zakzaky
in the early 1980s. Clashes between Sunni and Shia Muslims
historically have occurred for political reasons, as the
latter views perceived excesses of institutions such as the
sultanate, the emirates, and other mainstream Islamic
institutions and their leaders as "un-Islamic" or too closely
allied with secular government. Sectarian differences within
the Sunni community, by contrast, often concern doctrinal
issues. Similar to Shaykh Ja'afar's death, in which members
of the majority Tijaniyya/Qadiriyya sect of Sunni Islam were
considered culpable, the press and contacts report that
members of Sokoto's Shia community may have perpetrated
Dan-Mashiya's killing in retaliation for his alleged
anti-Shia statements. Shaykh Ja'afar, educated in Saudi
Arabia, initially joined the Izala movement only to part ways
in early 2006; the Shaykh espoused beliefs consistent with
the Izala doctrine which mirrors closely the Wahhabi version
of Sunni Islam and militated against Tijaniyya/Qadiriyya
practices, which he characterized as exogenous to Sunni Islam.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Though it is troubling that violence broke
out in the streets of Sokoto and tensions are obviously
running high, it appears that the Sultan is aware of the need
to keep matters from escalating and the government has
dispatched security forces to keep the peace. At this early
stage in the investigation, it remains premature to declare
that members of Sokoto's Shia community perpetrated

ABUJA 00001558 002.2 OF 002


Dan-Maishiya's killing in retaliation for his presumed
anti-Shia rhetoric. To be sure, differences between Sunni
and Shia Muslims have historically been problematic, at times
violent and bloody. While a connection between
Dan-Maishiya's July 18 killing and Shaykh Ja'afar's April 13
murder has not been made nor have the perpretators in either
case been identified or apprehended, this may signal a
worrying trend wherein Islamic scholars are becoming the
target of possible intra-religious dissension. END COMMENT.
CAMPBELL

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