The Department of State Services (DSS) says it has arrested a suspected major gun fabricator, arms-runner and a covert linkman and courier for the Boko Haram terrorist group.
The suspect, Musa Garba Abubakar (Engr), also known as Muhadis Musa Bin Haddad, was arrested on March 2 in Jos, Plateau State, during a special tactical operation by the Service.
A statement by the DSS said that during his arrest, two pistols, 80 rounds of live ammunition and several sensitive documents were recovered from him.
The statement read: “In a bid to employ propaganda to manipulate the international community against the efforts of the Federal Government, in the ongoing war against terror in the northeast region, Musa had approached a foreign mission in Nigeria for logistics and financial support to fight the Boko Haram.
“However, unknown to the mission, he is actually an unauthorised gun-maker/runner with intent for mischief and communal strife in the North Central region”.
The DSS further said it apprehended other suspected associates of the gun-runner – Umar Khalil Muhammed and Mohammed Yakubu Tahir, also known as Mallam Yaro. They were arrested on March 2.
Muhammed was arrested at Layin Oscar in Jos South Local Government Area, while Tahir was picked up at Mista Ali area, along Jos-Zaria road in Bassa LGA.
The duo are suspected accomplices and active marketers of Abubakar’s products to criminal elements in the North-Central region of Nigeria.
According to the DSS, other suspects Armaya’u Yakubu also known as Ali Tekwando, Yakubu Sule and Usman Ibrahim were also arrested on March 3 at Hayin Danmani area in Kaduna metropolis.
“The trio were members of an extremist cell under the coordination of Yakubu, with affiliation to the proscribed extremist group, ANSARU and have been perfecting plans to travel to Sudan, for terrorist training with other radical elements of the group,” the DSS statement issued by Tony Opuiyo further read.
The DSS also re-emphasised its resolve to sustain the fight against organised vices and criminal activities by terrorists, kidnappers, fraudsters and other deviant elements in Nigeria.
The Sevice further sought the support of law abiding Nigerians and all residents for law enforcement and security agencies, calling for proactive and actionable intelligence, for the sustenance of peace, law and order.
The Nigerian Army is set to close some markets in Borno and Yobe states identified for engaging in illegal trade.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja, the Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Usman said that the measure is to curtail illicit trading and smuggling in the northeast.
Also speaking at the news conference, the Chief of Civil Military Affairs, Major General Nicholas Rogers added that the Nigerian Army is collaborating with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to ensure thorough search of vehicles and commuters and arrest anyone in possession of arms and ammunitions.
The Department of State Security (DSS) has announced the arrest of persons it says threaten Nigeria’s internal security.
Among those arrested is one Abdussalam Enesi Yunusa, said to be a recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
According to a statement by the DSS, Yunusa was arrested in Kano following intelligence which indicated his move to indoctrinate and recruit susceptible youths in the country.
Also arrested in Daura, Katsina State are Ibrahim Mohammed Daura, Zaharadeen Salisu and five others suspected to be members of the proscribed extremist group, Ansaru.
Others arrested include one Mohammed Aliyu Ndako in Kwara State, a 17-year-old undergraduate student of a tertiary institution in the state, said to be one of those with plans to carry out coordinated lone-wolf attacks on selected populated targets in Nigeria.
The service says it has busted the network of syndicated kidnap gangs in Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Nasarawa, Oyo and Osun states and the FCT.
The U.S. has designated Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Ansaru militant groups as foreign terrorist organisations.
The state department described the move as “an important” step to help Nigeria “root out violent extremism”.
“These designations are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups,” a State Department statement said.
This means that the U.S. justice system is now empowered to block all financial dealings or transactions between America and these organisations.
The groups have been responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria, including attacks on churches and mosques and a 2011 suicide bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja, the statement said.
“By cutting these terrorist organizations off from U.S. financial institutions and enabling banks to freeze assets held in the United States, these designations demonstrate our strong support for Nigeria’s fight against terrorism and its efforts to address security challenges in the north,” Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama’s top homeland security and counter terrorism adviser, said in the statement.
“We encourage Nigeria to pursue a comprehensive counter terrorism approach that uses law enforcement tools effectively, creates economic opportunity and ensures that human rights are protected and respected,” she said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that over 6,000 people have being displaced in north-eastern of the country as a result of the on-going military clamp-down on Boko Haram insurgents following the state of emergency in the region.
The UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, made this known in a report it presented in New York, on Tuesday where it is estimated that 6,000 people, mostly women, children and elderly are displaced following the military onslaught against members of Islamist militant sects, Boko Haram and the al Qaeda-linked Ansaru.
The refugees are said to have fled to neighbouring Niger Republic.
“Those who spoke to UNHCR say they escaped for fear of being caught in the government-led crackdown,” Edwards said. He added that the presence of the Nigerians refugees in Niger was “putting a strain on meagre local food and water resources” on the country which “struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought.”
According to him the “refugees are either renting houses or staying with host families, who are themselves living in very precarious conditions.”
Edward stated that UNHCR member of staff, who visited several border villages hosting the refugees, met some Nigerian families living out in the open and some under trees.
Disclosing that the agency would help the Nigerien authorities to register the refugees, he further said that there were plans to deliver some relief to the refugees and their host communities.
He noted that 240 others, comprising Niger nationals and people of other nationalities, also fled from Nigeria to Niger while some ran to Cameroon and Chad in the past few weeks.
The two countries also share common boundaries with Nigeria.
The report also stated that “the Nigerian refugees reported that air strikes by government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where a state of emergency has been in force since May 14.”
“People arriving in Niger also mentioned the increasing presence of roving armed bandits in several states in Nigeria. The people also spoke of rising commodity prices coupled with pre-existing food insecurity which is also becoming a major concern for the populations of the affected states” it added.
The Nigerian Army are engaged in a four- week-old operation to regain territory from fighters loyal to Boko Haram. The soldiers claim that they had destroyed key Boko Haram bases and arrested more than 150 suspected insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
A statement by Defence Headquarters spokesperson, Brigadier -General Chris Olukolade, denied the report that Nigerian refugees were “pouring into” Niger.
This was even as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) stated it was responding to the humanitarian needs of the displaced Nigerians in Niger Republic to alleviate their conditions.
NEMA claimed that the basic needs were identified by a special assessment carried out by its team that was dispatched to Niger Republic to ascertain the conditions of Nigerians that had crossed over the border into the country.
Authority in the British military on Sunday said its warplanes recently spotted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja were there to move soldiers to aid the French intervention in Mali, not to rescue foreign hostages kidnapped by an Islamic group. The extremist group called Ansaru partially blamed the presence of those planes as an excuse for killing seven foreign hostages, including British, Greek, Italian and Lebanese citizens.
The Islamic radicals claimed on Saturday that they had killed the seven hostages. While Nigerian authorities have yet to comment publicly about Ansaru’s claim.
Ansaru said it killed the hostages in part due to media on the arrival of British military aircraft to Bauchi, where the abductions occurred. However, the online statement from Ansaru said the airplanes were spotted at the international airport in Abuja.
The British Ministry of Defence said the planes it flew to Abuja ferried Nigerian troops and equipment to Bamako, Mali. Nigerian soldiers have been sent to Mali to help French forces and Malian troops battle Islamic extremists there. The British military said it also transported Ghanaian soldiers to Mali the same way.
The British ministry declined to offer any other comment regarding Nigerian extremist group’s claims that it killed the seven hostage killings. Ansaru had said it believed the planes were part of a Nigerian and British rescue mission for the abducted hostages.
In its statement Saturday, Ansaru also blamed the killings on a pledge by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to do “everything possible” to free the hostages.
Ansaru previously issued a short statement saying its fighters kidnapped the foreigners Feb. 16 from a construction company’s camp at Jama’are, a town about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi state. In the attack gunmen first assaulted a local prison and burned police trucks, authorities said. Then the attackers blew up a back fence at the construction company’s compound and took over, killing a guard in the process, witnesses and police said.
In January 2013, Ansaru declared itself a splinter group independent from Boko Haram.
Reports say fundamentalist Boko Haram splinter group Ansaru has claimed that it has killed the seven foreign hostages it seized on February 7, from a construction company in Bauchi, north east Nigeria.
Agency reports quoting site monitoring service says the group issued a statement in Arabic and English on an affiliate of the Sinam al-Islam network accompanied by screen shots of a video purporting to show the dead hostages. One screenshot showed a man with gun standing above several prone figures lying on the ground.
Ansaru, which has kidnapped other foreigners in the past, had blasted into the compound using explosives and abducted a Briton, an Italian, a Greek and four Lebanese workers.
In its statement, the group allegedly said it had decided to kill the hostages, taken from the compound of a Lebanese construction company because of attempts by Britain and Nigeria to rescue them.
Effort to get the police to confirm this has not been successful as the police spokesman, Frank Mba, said he could not speak on the matter immediately.
Nigerian security forces surrounded the kidnappers of a French family in Northeast Borno state on Thursday in an operation to rescue the hostages, a Nigerian military source said.
French, Nigerian and Cameroonian officials earlier denied French media reports that the family, who were seized in Cameroon and taken over the border, had been freed.
The Nigerian military located the hostages and kidnappers between Dikwa and Ngala in the far northeast, the military source in Borno said, asking not to be identified.
Dikwa is less than 80 km (50 miles) from the border with Cameroon where the three adults and four children were taken hostage on Tuesday.
A senior Cameroonian military official declined to comment saying the matter was too sensitive.
Citing a Cameroon army officer, French media reported earlier on Thursday that the hostages had been found alive in a house in northern Nigeria.
“This is a crazy rumour that we cannot confirm. We do not know where is it coming from,” Cameroon Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told Reuters by telephone from the capital Yaounde.
“What is certain is that the French tourists who were abducted are no longer on our territory. However, we are in touch with the Government of Nigeria to intensify measures to continue the search for them along our common border,” he said.
French gendarmes backed by special forces arrived in northern Cameroon on Wednesday to help locate the family, a local governor and French defence ministry official said.
Nigerian military spokesman Sagir Musa earlier also said the report on France’s BFM television of the hostages being released was “not true,” while Didier Le Bret, the head of the French foreign ministry’s crisis centre, said the information was “baseless.”
The abduction was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony.
But the region – like others in West and North Africa with porous borders – is considered within the operational sphere of Boko Haram and fellow Nigerian Islamist militants Ansaru.
On Sunday, seven foreigners were snatched from the compound of Lebanese construction company Setraco in northern Nigeria’s Bauchi state, and Ansaru took responsibility.
Northern Nigeria is increasingly afflicted by attacks and kidnappings by Islamist militants. Ansaru, which rose to prominence only in recent months, has claimed the abduction in December of a French national who is still missing.
Three foreigners were killed in two failed rescue attempts last year after being kidnapped in northern Nigeria and Ansaru, blamed for those kidnaps, warned this could happen again.
The threat to French nationals in the region has grown since France deployed thousands of troops to Mali to oust al Qaeda-linked Islamists who controlled the country’s north.
The kidnapping in Cameroon brought to 15 the number of French citizens being held in West Africa.
An Islamist group linked to al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Monday for kidnapping seven foreigners during a night time raid in a remote town in Bauchi State at the weekend. Gunmen killed a security guard and abducted a Briton, an Italian, a Greek and four Lebanese workers after storming the housing compound of Lebanese construction firm Setraco in Jama’are in Bauchi state late on Saturday.
“By Allah’s grace (we) have the custody of seven persons, which include Lebanese and their European counterparts working with Setraco,” read a statement from Ansaru, a group that has kidnapped other foreigners in Nigeria in the past.
The kidnapping was “based on the transgression and atrocities done to the religion of Allah by the European countries in many places such as Afghanistan and Mali,” the statement said.
Attacks by fractured Islamist groups in northern Nigeria have become the biggest threat to stability in the country.
Ansaru’s full name is Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan, which roughly translates as “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa”.
The group has risen to prominence only in recent months.
It has claimed responsibility for kidnapping a Frenchman last year and a raid on a major police station, where it said hundreds of prisoners were released. Britain said the group was behind the kidnap of a British and an Italian killed last year during a failed rescue attempt.
Kneeling over a dusty grave on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, 16-year old Hope Ehiawaguan says a prayer, lays down flowers and tearfully tells her brother she loves him.
He was one of 44 killed on Christmas Day last year when a member of Islamist sect Boko Haram rammed a car packed with explosives into the gates of St Theresa’s Church in Madalla, Niger state, a satellite town 25 miles from the center of Abuja.
Boko Haram has killed hundreds in its campaign to impose sharia law in northern Nigeria and is the biggest threat to stability in Africa’s top oil exporter.
Two other churches were bombed that day and on Christmas Eve 2010 over 40 people were killed in similar attacks.
This Christmas, the police and military are expecting more trouble in the north. They’ve ordered security to be tightened, people’s movement restricted and churches to be guarded.
But such is the commitment to religion in a country with Africa’s largest Christian population that millions of people will pack out thousands of churches in the coming days. It is impossible to protect everyone, security experts say.
“I feel safe,” Ehiawaguan says with uncertainty, when asked if she will come to church on December 25 this year.
“Not because of security here … because we have a greater security in heaven,” she says, wiping away her tears.
The blast in Madalla killed several people on the street and pulled down the church roof, condemning many of those trapped inside the burning building, including a 7-month old boy.
A plaque listing the names of the members of the church who were killed has been placed above their graves. The twisted metal of the cars destroyed in the blast is still there.
“I only pray to God to give them a heart,” Ehiawaguan says, when asked about her brother’s killers.
Security experts believe Boko Haram is targeting worshippers to spark a religious conflict in a country of 160 million people split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.
Meanwhile, soldiers and plain clothes security men were today deployed to all roads leading to St Theresa Catholic Church, where suicide bombers killed scores of worshippers at the church exactly a year ago.
At a Christmas and commemorative service, the parish priest, Reverend Father Isaac Achi appealed to Christians to learn to forgive all those who deliberately hurt them.
Father Achi said those who perpetrate evil against the state and innocent citizens require prayers from Christian faithful’s.
He called on Christians to remain prayerful saying the power of prayer and love can overcome all situations.
The sect has also targeted Mosques in the past and assassinated Imams who have questioned its insurgency. In the group’s stronghold in the northeast, where most of its attacks occur, Muslims are equally at threat as Christians.
The fear for many is that more Christmas Day attacks could spark the sort of tit-for-tat sectarian violence between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south, which has claimed thousands of lives in the past decade.
“We have always insisted that Christians should not retaliate,” said Sam Kraakevik Kujiyat, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna State, one of the areas worst hit by inter-religious violence in recent years.
“But there is fear … we know not everyone who says he is a Christian acts like one.”
Churches were emptier than usual on Sunday in northern cities of Kano and Kaduna, local residents said.
Despite bolstered security in cities across the north, dual suicide bombers attacked the offices of mobile phone operators India’s Airtel and South Africa’s MTN in Nigeria’s second-largest city Kano on Saturday.
The bombers died but no civilians were killed.
No one took responsibility for the attacks but Boko Haram has targeted phone firms before because they say the companies help the security forces catch their members.
At least 2,800 people have died in fighting in the largely Muslim north since Boko Haram launched an uprising against the government in 2009, watchdog Human Rights Watch says.
Boko Haram has showed since its insurgency intensified more than two years ago that it can find weaknesses in defenses.
“One faction of Boko Haram has made several attempts to provoke violence between Christians and Muslims,” said Peter Sharwood Smith, Nigeria head of security firm Drum Cussac.
“Unfortunately, I think it is very possible we may see attacks of this type (Church bombings) again.”
Boko Haram is not the only threat in northern Nigeria.
Islamist Group called Ansaru, known to have ties with Boko Haram, has risen in prominence in recent weeks. It claimed an attack on a major police barracks in Abuja last month, where it said hundreds of prisoners were released.
The group said on Saturday that it was behind the kidnapping of a French national last week and it has been labeled a “terrorist group” by Britain.