The State Secret Service (SSS) on Wednesday arrested the purported spokesman for Islamist militant sect Boko Haram, a group that has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly bombings and gun attacks, a secret service source told Reuters.
A Joint Task Force (JTF) stormed the dwelling of the man known as ‘Abu Qaqa’ in the northern city of Kaduna in the early hours of the morning and found him hiding under his bed, said the highly-placed source, who asked not to be named.
The past three months have seen a surge in violence by Boko Haram, a movement loosely modelled on Afghanistan’s Taliban which says it is fighting to install sharia law across Nigeria.
The arrest of a senior Boko Haram figure would be a gain for the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan which has been criticised for failing to curb the sect’s violent activities in the mainly Muslim north.
The reported arrest came two weeks after the prime suspect in the Christmas Day bombing of Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, on the edge of Abuja escaped from police custody, prompting Mr Jonathan to sack the Inspector General of police.
“We are still talking to him. Since ‘Abu Qaqa’ is a pseudonym for the Boko Haram spokesman, we want to be sure of who we have with us. But we have been on his trail for months now. He’s been changing locations and contacts,” the State Security Services (SSS) source said.
“He is fairly educated. He is from the Igbira ethnic group, from Kogi state in north central Nigeria,” the SSS official added.
A spokeswoman for the SSS said she had no information on the incident. The police spokesman also declined to confirm it.
A man calling himself Abu Qaqa often appeared in local media after bomb and gun attacks to claim them for the group and justify the choice of target.
For a long time Abu Qaqa was the closest thing the sect had to a public face, before its purported leader Abubakar Shekau posted a video of himself last month on YouTube.