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Nigerian military deletes tweet that appears to justify killing protesters with Trump's words

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 11/3/2018 N'dea Yancey-Bragg
a man riding on the back of a truck: The Nigerian military patrols after flushing out Boko Haram Islamic militants from Michika, Nigeria, on March 19, 2015. © epa The Nigerian military patrols after flushing out Boko Haram Islamic militants from Michika, Nigeria, on March 19, 2015.

The Nigerian military has deleted a tweet which appeared to use President Donald Trump’s words to justify its use of lethal force against a group of protesters last week.

The army, which has come under fire for alleged human rights abuses, tweeted a video of Trump suggesting immigrants could be shot if they throw rocks at the U.S. military with the caption “Please Watch and Make your Deductions.”

The video is a clip from a speech Trump gave at the White House on Thursday in which he announced his administration was preparing to change the country's asylum practices in light of a  migrant caravan fleeing danger in Central America that is headed for the United States.

"They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back," the president told reporters. "I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police, I say consider it a rifle."

Trump later walked back his comments, saying migrants who throw stones at members of the military at the U.S. border will be arrested. He said he hoped "they won't have to fire" and disputed how his previous comments were perceived by the public. 

"I didn't say shoot," Trump said. "I didn't say shoot. But if they do that with us they're gonna be arrested for a long time."

The Nigerian military tweet seemed to reference violence against protesters that occurred over the weekend. An Amnesty International report found that Nigerian soldiers and police killed at least 45 supporters and injured 122 others of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria over the course of two days. The group was holding a peaceful religious procession in the capital, Abuja.

Protesters demanded the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El Zakzaky, whose detention was described as “unlawful and unconstitutional” by a federal court in December 2016, according to Amnesty International.

Nigeria Army spokesman John Agim told the New York Times that the army posted the video in reaction to the report accusing the army of using weapons against protesters.

“We released that video to say if President Trump can say that rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International?” he told the newspaper. “What are they then saying? What did David use to kill Goliath? So a stone is a weapon.”

Both the tweet and the initial remarks by Trump have received widespread condemnation from human rights advocates. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called it "sickening."

The United States Embassy in Abuja has also called on the government of Nigeria to conduct an investigation into the deaths during the protests and prosecute those responsible.

Since taking office, Trump has moved to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Nigeria, providing training and security equipment to the country's military and approving the sale of twelve A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which former President Barack Obama froze due to the Nigerian military’s poor human rights records, according to Human Rights Watch.

“This episode makes it crystal clear that Trump’s rhetoric matters in a very concrete way,” the organization said in a statement. “His recent inflammatory statements, made days before the US midterm elections, have clearly been seized upon by some in the Nigerian military as an abusive new standard to which they would like to adhere.”

Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY

Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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