US Justice department wants Boko Haram on international terrorist list

The Justice Department is pressing the State Department to designate Boko Haram, a Nigerian militant group alleged to be responsible for hundreds of deaths, as a “foreign terrorist organization,” according to a document obtained by Reuters.

Lisa Monaco, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, sent a letter in January to State Department counter-terrorism chief Daniel Benjamin requesting that Boko Haram, also know as the “Nigerian Taliban,” be put on the list.

A Congressional source said that in the last few days, State Department representatives have lobbied Congress to try to stop legislation which would force the administration to act against the group or explain why they had not done so.

On Thursday, Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on Homeland Security, introduced an amendment to a defense bill that does just that, after he said State officials inexplicably cancel led a briefing on Boko Haram.

In several recent cases, including that of the so-called underwear bomber, in which a Nigerian failed to blow up an airliner headed to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the United States has been handcuffed by waiting too long to designate a group as “terrorists,” Meehan said.

“Only later, after they’ve committed terrible acts have we put them on the list of foreign terrorists,” Meehan told Reuters. “To not have the capacity that it gives law enforcement to both monitor and to hold people who give material support to an organization like that, puts us at a disadvantage.”

Representative Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said: “Boko Haram claimed credit for the suicide bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, killing 23 people and injuring more than 80 others.

“That meets my definition of a terrorist group, but if the administration has a reason why they don’t want to designate them, I would like to hear it,” Rogers said.

A senior State Department official said the department was “very concerned about violence in Nigeria” and added that it was “looking at this very carefully.”

The official insisted the department was “not stalling or dragging our feet.” But he noted that adding a group to the sanctions list is a “rigorous process which has to stand up in a court of law.”

LINKED TO SERIES OF ATTACKS

Congress has recently been at odds with the Obama administration regarding demands that a Pakistan-based militant group linked to the Taliban known as the Haqqani Network also be added to the foreign terrorist organization list.

Some administration officials have hinted that they are resisting putting the Haqqani network on the list in the hope that not doing so might advance continuing, but patchy, peace negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban groups in Afghanistan.

Assistant Attorney General Monaco’s letter said that in her view, Boko Haram meets the criteria for a foreign terrorist listing, in that it either engages in terrorism which threatens the United States or has a capability or intent to do so.

According to Monaco, since 2009 the group has targeted violent attacks against Nigeria’s “police, politicians, public institutions and civilian population.”

She said the group was responsible for an attack in December 2010 in which 80 were killed in a town called Jos; a June 2011 attack on Nigeria’s national police headquarters; an August 2011 attack on a U.N. compound in Nigerian capital Abuja; and multiple attacks in November and December 2011, including Christmas Day attacks on churches and other targets.

Monaco said that according to press reports, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for 510 victims in 2011, and also took credit for a Jan. 20 attack on government buildings in Kano in which more than 160 were killed.

Monaco said that although Boko Haram attacks until now have occurred only within Nigeria, the U.S. should not underestimate the threat the group poses to U.S. interests.

She claimed the group had forged links with “transnational terrorist groups,” including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a north African affiliate of al Qaeda’s Pakistan-based core group, and Boko Haram has “openly espoused violence against the West.”

In a March 30 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Meehan and House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King suggested some of Boko Haram’s most recent tactics have paralleled those of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan, both of which have been linked to attempted – though unsuccessful – attacks on the United States.

Administration officials have said that U.S. government representatives will hold high-level talks with Nigerian officials in Washington next month and the issue of Boko Haram is certain to come up.

REUTERS

Buhari, Jonathan trade words on Boko Haram

President Goodluck Jonathan and the National leader of the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), Muhammadu Buhari have continued to trade blames on who is responsible for the increasing violence in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern part of the country.

Mr Jonathan through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati described the accusations by Buhari that the Federal Government is the ‘Biggest Boko Haram’ as ‘very sad’.

“The Federal Government led by President Jonathan is not Boko Haram. Boko Haram means Western Education is sin. That being the case, one wonders how a government that devoted the largest sectoral allocation in the 2012 budget to education could be said to be Boko Haram,” the statement signed by Mr Abati reads.

The statement further challenged the former head of state “to tell Nigerians what he has done, whether in his capacity as the head of a military junta or in his private capacity, to bring education to vulnerable children.”

Responding to Buhari’s prediction that what happened in 2011 will happen again in 2015 and that Mr Jonathan does not listen to advice from people, Mr Abati said “if what happens in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, ‘the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”, we hereby state that it is Buhari himself who does not listen. He has obviously refused to listen to the Nigerian People, the European Union, the Commonwealth Monitoring Group, the African Union and a multitude of independent electoral monitors who testified that the 2011 elections were free and fair and “the best elections since Nigeria returned to civil rule.”

Buhari was on Monday quoted to have said “since the leaders now don’t listen to anybody but do whatever they wish, there is nothing the North can do”

Mr Abati described the former head of state’s statement as unfortunate and unbecoming and also condemned the labelling of the federal government as the “biggest Boko Haram”

Still on the issue of Boko Haram, the statement from the Mr Jonathan spokesman said the presidency “wonders what locus a man whose party’s Secretary General, Buba Galadima, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in December, 2010, that the Federal Government is underestimating the support base of Boko Haram, has to accuse a government that has been threatened on camera by the leaders of Boko Haram of itself being Boko Haram?”

The Complete statement from the Presidency.

Buhari talks back

Buhari in a prompt response issued a statement through the National Publicity Secretary, of the CPC, Rotimi Fashakin accussing Mr Jonathan of ethnicity in the appointment of the Minister of petroleum resources and reminds Nigerians of the contradictory comments made by the presidency after the independence anniversary bombing in Abuja.

The CPC accuses the presidency of not waiting for any preliminary report from the security agencies, before stating that the attack was carried out by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a Niger Delta militant group which the CPC comprises of Ijaws, Mr Jonathan’s ethnic group.

Part of the CPC’s statement reads, “So far as president of Nigeria, Dr GoodLuck Jonathan has shown very generous affinity for Nigerians of Ijaw stock in terms of appointments and promotions in the federal public sector” end of quote.

The CPC goes on to add that the presidency has attempted all manner of subterfuge to give executive cover for the indicted people in the N2.67trillion fuel subsidy saying that the Mr Jonathan will not prosecute those indicted by the fuel subsidy probe report since corrupt oil marketers used the money siphoned from the schem to fund Mr Jonathan’s electoral campaign.

“On Corruption and sleazy tendency, the Jonathan administration transcends all others before it! Nigerians are still befuddled by the impeachable show of arbitrariness by the regime in expending N2.67Trillion on fuel subsidy instead of the appropriated N240Billion in the 2011 appropriation act. As expected, the regime has attempted all manner of subterfuge to give Executive cover for the indicted people in the scam, who were the bank-rollers of the President’s electioneering campaign. Could it be that the missing money was funneled deliberately to the Jonathan Presidential Campaigns, with the acquiescence of the President,” the statement reads.

The CPC reiterates the earlier statement made by  Buhari that the militant group, boko haram has three variants, with varying degrees of severity and murderous content: the original boko-haram that seeks to avenge the extra-judicial killing of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf by the Nigeria police; the Boko Haram that pursues criminality for monetary gains and the political boko-haram that is bent on setting the stage for ethno-religious pogrom in the Nigerian nation.

The complete statement from the CPC.

JTF arrests suspected Boko Haram leader

Operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) arrested a man suspected to be a high-profile operational commander of the extremist group, Boko Haram, along with his wife and five children, during a raid at his residence in Farawa quarters, Kumbotso local Government area, Kano state.
The operation commander was identified by the JTF as Suleiman Mohammed, a Yoruba tribe member from Ogbomosho in Osun State, South West Nigeria.

Security sources said that the suspect and his entire family has been flown to Abuja for interrogation.

Sophisticated weapons were recovered during the raid, including a rifle, 10 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), three pistols, and 1,000 rounds of live ammunition.

No shots were fired during the raid.

The Kano Police Commissioner; Ibrahim Idris who confirmed the arrest told journalists that “details of the suspect were not for public consumption for now.”

The arrest of Mr. Mohammed coincided with the recovery of seven trucks of empty used soft drink cans from an uncompleted building in the Kano metropolis.

The Police Commissioner said that the cans were veritable components in making low calibre IED’s and enjoined the public to always endeavour to destroy such  cans to frustrate criminal elements from converting them into parts of making explosives.

Boko Haram, whose official name in Arabic translates as “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” is agitating for the enforcement of Islamic sharia law, at least in the Muslim areas of the north.

Recently, the islamic sect Boko Haram offered to open dialogue with President Goodluck Jonathan but gave little or no  room for compromise regarding its main mission.

Syria rebels kill seven, bomb explodes near U.N. monitors

Syrian rebels killed at least seven pro-government militiamen in a Damascus suburb on Wednesday, activists said, and a large explosion hit a convoy accompanying United Nations ceasefire observers in the southern province of Deraa.

Residents and members of the Free Syrian Army watch as United Nations observers arrive at Qusair town.

The Damascus attack with rocket-propelled grenades on a bus carrying the fighters through the suburb of Irbin prompted the army to seal off the area and respond with shelling, activist Mohammad Saeed said.

The sustained violence, nearly four weeks after a ceasefire deal was brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan, has led to warnings this week from the Red Cross, Arab League and Annan himself that Syria is slipping into civil war.

Annan’s ceasefire deal was part of a wider plan aimed at ending 14 months of turmoil since protests erupted in March last year against President Bashar al-Assad. The demonstrations have now been overshadowed by an increasingly armed rebellion.

Violence in Syria has sharply divided world powers. The U.S. envoy to the United Nations declared on Tuesday that Assad’s government had not fully implemented any part of Annan’s plan, while Russia’s ambassador, who has been more supportive of Damascus, said “things are moving in a positive direction”.

Activists and state media said Major-General Robert Mood was in Deraa when an explosion hit cars accompanying the U.N. monitors tasked with observing the implementation of Annan’s April 12 ceasefire deal.

The pro-government Addounia television said eight members of the security forces were wounded in the blast. It said the explosion happened in front of the U.N. observers, but there were no reports that any of them were hurt.

Despite an initial pause in fighting on April 12, a promised ceasefire has not taken hold. Nor has the carnage in Syria stopped, despite a parliamentary poll on Monday which the government promoted as a milestone on its path to reform but which the opposition dismissed as a sham and boycotted.

Beyond the ceasefire and monitoring mission, Annan’s plan also calls for free access for journalists, humanitarian aid access and political dialogue between the government and opposition. So far, 60 of some 300 monitors have arrived with the whole team expected to be assembled by the end of May.

CROSS-BORDER FIRE

Lebanese residents in the border town of al-Qaa said Syrian troops fired across the border into Lebanon on Wednesday, killing a 75-year-old woman and wounding her daughter.

In the northern province of Idlib, one man was killed and three others wounded during heavy clashes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Reuters journalist in Idlib city heard gunfire throughout the night.

Heavy clashes were also reported in Hama city and in Deir al-Zor, where residents say government forces carried out raids and arrests. Two security members were killed and one man was killed by unknown gunmen, the British-based Observatory said.

The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed 9,000 people since the uprising erupted in March 2011. Syrian authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed Islamist militants who they say have killed 2,600 soldiers and police.

Syrian U.N. envoy Bashar Ja’afari displayed on Tuesday a CD that he said contained 26 confessions from Arabs who were caught in Syria and had come from Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere through Turkey and Lebanon “to perpetrate terrorist acts in Syria”.

He said another 15 foreign fighters had been killed by Syrian security forces, and urged Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to stop “their sponsorship of the armed rebellion.”

The commander of Syria’s rebel Free Syrian Army has threatened to resume attacks on Assad’s forces, saying he could no longer stand idle while a government crackdown on protests continued, a pan-Arab newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“We will not stand with folded arms because we are not able to tolerate and wait while killings, arrests and shelling continue despite the presence of the (U.N.)observers who have turned into false witnesses,” Asaad said, according to the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

“Our people are also demanding we defend them in the absence of any serious steps by the Security Council which is giving the regime a chance to commit more crimes,” he added.

REUTERS

Suicide bombers kill seven after Obama leaves Afghan capital

Suicide bombers attacked a compound housing Westerners in Kabul on Wednesday hours after U.S. President Barack Obama signed a security pact during a short visit to a city that remains vulnerable to a resilient insurgency.

Afghan security forces members inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul May 2, 2012. At least six people were killed in the suicide car bomb attack in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, officials said, hours after U.S. President Barack Obama left Kabul following an unannounced visit during which he signed a strategic partnership agreement.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which involved a car bomb and insurgents disguised as women on the eastern outskirts of the capital, killing seven people, a Gurkha guard and six passers-by, and wounding 17.

The Taliban said it was in response to Obama’s visit and to the strategic partnership deal he signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a pact that sets out a long-term U.S. role after most foreign combat troops leave by the end of 2014.

The insurgency also claimed their spring offensive, which began two weeks ago with attacks in Kabul, would be renewed on Thursday, despite a security clamp-down in the capital.

Obama’s visit came a year after U.S. special forces troops killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks, in a raid in neighbouring Pakistan.

In a televised address to the American people from a base north of Kabul, he said the war in Afghanistan was winding down.

“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America,” Obama said, speaking against a backdrop of armoured vehicles and a U.S. flag.

“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”

Nearly 3,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban rulers were ousted in 2001.

The Taliban, overthrown by U.S.-backed Afghan forces for harbouring bin Laden and other militants, were quick to take credit for Wednesday’s attack at Green Village, one of several compounds for Westerners on a main road out of the capital.

“This attack was to make clear our reaction to Obama’s trip to Afghanistan. The message was that instead of signing a strategic partnership deal with Afghanistan, he should think about taking his troops out from Afghanistan and leave it to Afghans to rebuild their country,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

But America’s Kabul ambassador, Ryan Crocker, said involvement of the Haqqani network – which Washington believes is based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region and which it blames for high-profile attacks in Kabul in April – could not be ruled out.

On the anniversary of bin Laden’s killing, Crocker said he did not believe there would be a sole turning point in the war.

“Al Qaeda is still there. We do feel we are prevailing in this with our Afghan partners,” he said. “We cannot be in a position of taking on ourselves bringing perfection to Afghanistan. That has to be left to Afghans.”

But Crocker said there would be no repeat of the 1990s when a withdrawal of Western backers in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal unleashed a vicious civil war out of which the Taliban and al Qaeda support bases arose.

BLOOD STAINS

Hundreds of police and intelligence agency troops surrounded the area around Green Village after the attack. Ruined cars were seen in front of the compound gates but officials said no attackers made it inside the heavily-guarded complex.

“I was going to the office when the car in front of me blew up. I got on my bicycle and fled,” 40-year-old Farid Ahmad Mohammad told Reuters near the scene of the explosion.
A worker at the compound, Jamrod, said at a hospital where the wounded had been taken that he had been showing his identity card at the compound’s main gate when the vehicle exploded.

“I heard a bang and then I slammed into the wall,” Jamrod, still clad in blood-stained jeans, told Reuters.

Wednesday’s attack was the latest in a recent surge of violence after the Taliban announced they had begun their usual “spring offensive”, and since they suspended tentative steps towards peace talks with the United States.

Such incidents raise troubling questions about the readiness of Afghan forces to take over when militants remain able to stage high-profile attacks, even when already tight security had been beefed up even further for Obama’s visit.

Insurgents staged coordinated attacks in Kabul last month, paralyzing the city’s centre and diplomatic area for 18 hours.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for those attacks, but U.S. and Afghan officials blamed the militant, al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.

ELECTION YEAR

Obama’s visit was clearly an election-year event.

He spoke to U.S. troops during a stay in Afghanistan of roughly six hours and emphasized bin Laden’s demise, an event his re-election campaign has touted as one of his most important achievements in office.

“Not only were we able to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice,” Obama said to cheers.

But even as he asserted in his speech that there was a “clear path” to fulfilling the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and made his strongest claim yet that the defeat of al Qaeda was “within reach”, he warned of further hardship ahead.

“I recognize that many Americans are tired of war … But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly,” he said at Bagram airbase, where only months ago thousands of Afghans rioted after U.S. troops accidentally burned copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

That incident, and the killing of 17 Afghan civilians by a rogue U.S. soldier weeks later, plunged already tense relations to their lowest point in years.

While speaking in broad terms of “difficult days ahead”, Obama did not address some of the thorniest challenges.

These include corruption in Karzai’s government, the unsteadiness of Afghan forces in the face of a resilient Taliban insurgency, and Washington’s strained ties with Pakistan, where U.S. officials see selective cooperation in cracking down on militants fuelling cross-border violence.

Earlier, Obama met Karzai at his walled garden palace in Kabul, where they signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement. “By signing this document, we close the last 10 years and open a new season of equal relations,” Karzai said after the meeting.

The agreement does not specify whether a reduced number of U.S. troops, possibly special forces, and advisers will remain after NATO’s 2014 withdrawal deadline. That will be dealt with in a separate status-of-forces agreement still being worked out.

REUTERS

Oritsejafor gives final warning to government over Boko Haram

The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ayo Oritsejafor has issued what he described as final warning to the Federal Government to employ all available resources like other nations have done to stop terrorism in the country.

The CAN president, who was speaking during a news conference in Abuja, said it is clear that the bombings by the Boko Haram sect is not as a result of poverty but based on religious ideologies used to intimidate and destroy many families.

“The questions we have always asked is that in the 51 years of existence of Nigeria as a nation, who are those that have governed this country most? Most of them are from a particular section of the North,” Mr. Oritsejafor said.

The CAN president further asked what these leaders from the North did with the resources at their disposal in reducing the poverty level in the North.

Mr Oritsejafor said that the church leadership is willing to partner with well-meaning Muslims to fight terrorism in Nigeria.
He warned that the church will no longer remain silent while Christians in the North are attacked.

“The Church leadership had hitherto put great restraint on the restive and aggrieved millions of Nigerians but can no longer guarantee such cooperation if this trend of terror is not halted immediately,” the CAN president said.

No fewer than 20 people were killed while several others sustained various degrees of injury in last Sunday attack against worshippers at St Stephen Catholic Chaplain, Bayero University, Kano.

The multiple blasts were targeted at the early morning Christian worshippers at Theatre Two near Sport Complex, old Campus of the institution.

Attacks a national disgrace 

The Kaduna state Chapter of CAN described the Boko Haram onslaught against Christians in parts of the North as a national disgrace, saying that the Federal Government must rise up to halt the carnage before it got out of hand.

In a statement signed by the Kaduna CAN Chairman, Samuel Kugiyat noted that the continued onslaught on Christians by the sect was a deliberate attempt to wipe out Christians from the region, adding that all political leaders from the region must act now.

According to the CAN leader, it was amazing that Christians in the Northern States were being sacrificed on the altar of the religious extremism of the Boko Haram sect, while their rights and privileges as Nigerians were also being deliberately eluded by authorities who claimed to be just and want peace in the region.

He argued that apart from the killings of Christians in the region, Christians in the predominantly Muslim Northern States were being short-changed as second class citizens of Nigeria.

Mr. Kujiyat said that the Sunday attacks and killings of Christians in Bayero University Kano and Maiduguri were a barbaric and heinous act of sheer deliberate wickedness and persecution of Christians in the core states of Northern Nigeria.

The CAN boss said: “Governments at all levels all over the country with their security agencies have the responsibility to protect all citizens, Christians, Muslims and the non religious.

“Therefore the entire onslaught and sheer killing of Christians with impunity by the Boko Haram is certainly a National disgrace that the federal Government must do all at its disposal to arrest before it consumes us all to which we say God forbid.

“Therefore it is our prayer that the Federal Government with its instrument and legality will arise and seize the opportunity to nip in the bud this ongoing cleansing of Christians in Northern States of Nigeria.”

FG to set up trauma centers for terrorism victims

With the nation under a barrage of unabated attacks by the radical Boko Haram sect, the Nigeria Federal Government has announced plans to establish national trauma centers across Africa’s most populous country.

The creation of the centers will ensure surviving victims of these increasingly frequent terrorist attacks receive more immediate and effective treatment.

Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, who announced the plan, said the trauma centers planted in key cities are near completion.

“We are almost completed,” Prof. Chukwu said. “The trauma center at the national hospital should be ready in July for use; the one at the University of Abuja teaching hospital should be ready at the same time.”

The trauma centers are also coming equipped with helicopters that will aid a more effective evacuation and transportation of critical patients, the minister explained.

“We are working seriously to have all the modern facilities, including facilities for evacuation helicopters to land and take off,” Chukwu said.

Also speaking at the press briefing was Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, attributed the spate of terror attacks in the country to the activities of a “few evil network of people”.

He assured, however, the federal government will work hard to rise to the challenges the nation is currently faced with.

The announcement comes after a wave of attacks by the Boko Haram sect in recent days, targeting newspaper offices in Abuja and Kaduna, as well as worship places in Kano and Maiduguri over the weekend.

Boko Haram’s increasingly frequent attacks have claimed over 300 lives this year alone.

Police is winning war against terrorism in Nigeria – IGP

The Acting Inspector-General of Police, Abubakar Mohammed, on Monday in Abuja dismissed insinuations that the Nigeria Police was losing the war against terrorists.


Mr. Mohammed, who was speaking to State House correspondents about Monday’s attack at the Taraba State Ministry of Finance, said the police had intensified efforts toward checking the activities of terror groups across the country.

Terrorists threw explosives at the motorcade of the Commissioner of Police in Taraba, Mamman Sule, while he was going through the ministry to his own office.

Mr. Mohammed refuted the claim that the Taraba attack was targeted at the Taraba State police commissioner, saying that arrests had been made in connection with the attack.

“You see, my Commissioner of Police was not the target and it (bomb) was placed on the road and it exploded; nothing has happened to the Commissioner and we have made arrests.”

“We can confirm that 11 people were killed. 10 people died at the spot, while one person died at the Federal Medical Centre in Jalingo,’’ Umar Waziri, the Red Cross Information Coordinator in Taraba told journalists on Monday.

Twenty persons including two university professors were killed on Sunday when gunmen armed with grenades and rifles attacked worshippers at the St Stephen Catholic Church, Bayero University, Kano, while several others were injured.

The two professors, Professor Ayodele of the Chemistry Department and Professor Andrew Leo of the Library Department, were among the dead.

Northern elders want government to resume talks with Boko Haram

Prominent Northern elders on Monday advised the Federal Government to resume talks with the dreaded Islamic militant, Boko Haram as part of efforts to end the crisis which they say is a high threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria.

Arewa Elders Forum advised the Federal Government to resume talks with the dreaded Islamic militant, Boko Haram.

At the end of a meeting of the Arewa Elders Forum in Abuja, the spokesman of the group, Paul Unongo said the escalation of the crisis has provided a convenient cover for criminal element s to perpetrate other crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping and assassinations.

The forum condemned the boko haram sect and other forms of violence threatening the country.

“The Northern elders are extremely worried and concerned by emerging indications and circumstantial evidence that there may be more than just the original Boko Haram operating in Nigeria,” Mr Unongo said while addressing journalist after the meeting.

“On the effort to bring the Boko Haram saga to an end, the elders support the talks which started between the sect and the government a few weeks ago and urge very strongly, a resumption of such talks and their prosecution to a successful conclusion,” he added.

The Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria, SCSN, that was negotiating with the Federal Government on behalf of the Boko Haram sect on how to put an end to the spate of bombing in the country had accused the Federal Government of insincerity on the peace initiative which has led to the collapse of the talks between both parties.

Another possible reason why the talks between the Boko Haram and the government collapsed was the reluctance by the Federal Government to release top shots of the sect from custody. The government was said to be preparing the release of some of the foot soldiers of the Islamic sect while still holding on to the sect leaders who have been arrested.

The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ayo Oritsejafor had kicked against the talks between the government and the sect which have been accused of killing over 1, 000 people mostly Christians in the North. In his view, the greatest disservice the government could do to the unity of the country is negotiating with the sect.

According to Oritsejafor, it will be the greatest instrument of the nation’s disunity ever experienced since independence, should the government decide to sit on the negotiating table with the dreaded Islamic sect.

UK warns over terror attacks during Easter holiday

The United Kingdom is warning citizens living in or travelling to Nigeria to remain vigilant as “there is a high threat of terrorist attack during religious festivals” such as the upcoming Easter holiday.

In an updated travel advisory published online Thursday, the Foreign Office urged citizens to “exercise particular vigilance and caution” during the religious holiday as radical sect Boko Haram has been known to strike on religious holidays, including the series of attacks on Christmas Day last year that claimed over 40 lives.

“Attacks could be indiscriminate, including government and security institutions, international organisations as well as public areas such as markets, hotels, shopping centres, places of worship and other areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.”

Major cities in the north, including Kano and Maiduguri have reportedly shored up security measures to protect against possible attacks, even as the Nigerian army issued a warning this week of a possible terrorist attack in Kano.

The warning was released on Wednesday after Army spokesman, Lt. Ikedichi Iweha, confirmed the arrest of three suspected Boko Haram members who had allegedly killed a soldier at a checkpoint in Kano.

Iweha, who paraded the bodies od the dead suspects at the Bukanu Baracks late Wednesday afternoon, said two AK 47 rifles, two pistols and other weapons had been recovered from the suspects’ car.

The JTF spokesman warned Nigerians to be cautious during the holiday, warning a deadly violent strike could be in the horizon in the holiday season.

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen open fire in Maiduguri market, kill 7

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen have killed seven people at the popular Maiduguri Monday market on Wednesday, police and eye witnesses said.

According to reports, the armed insurgents stormed the market, one of the largest in the northeastern state, at about 2 p.m. and targeted an area of the market where southern traders operate.

Witnesses to the attack say the gunmen first shot and killed an electronic salesman before targeting other Igbo traders, the AP reported.

“They opened fire on some shops selling insecticides and mosquito nets, killing seven traders,” he said, adding that no arrests had been made,” state police commissioner Bala Hassan said.

“The shooting caused confusion in the market, which gave the attackers the chance to escape unnoticed before the arrival of security personnel,” he said.

Guard soldiers in the area opened fire, shooting in the air, in order to disperse civilians, but they were unable to stop the assailants from escaping.

Samuel Tizhe, state police spokesman also confirmed the attacks, adding that “three other civilians also sustained injury during the attack at Monday Market”.

He added that calm has been restored to the area and said authorities “have reinforced security in and around the state”.

Authorities said weapons were recovered following the attack and said the area has been cordoned off while police conduct a thorough search of the area.

No arrests have been made yet, but security officials have assured investigations are ongoing.

Former SSS operative says Boko Haram has links to Al-Qaeda

A former officer of the State Security Service (SSS), Bukar Tarha on Tuesday told a Federal High court sitting in Abuja that Mohammed Suleiman Ashafa charged by the Federal Government for allegedly associating with Al-Qaeda had admitted his involvement in national and international acts of terrorism.

Mr Tarha, who retired from the SSS in 2008, told the court that the Nigerian suspected Islamic fundamentalist had admitted, during investigation that he was working for the resident chief of Al-Qaeda in West Africa, Adnan Ibrahim who is based in Kano and that he took some Nigerians for terrorism training in the Sahel region.

The witness said that Mr Ashafa was under his custody between 2005 and 2006, when he was head of the anti-terrorism department of the SSS, adding that the accused person was handed over to the Nigerian government by the Pakistani government through the National Intelligent Agency (NIA) with a cover letter, stating that he was intercepted at the Pakistani airport in 2004.

According to him, the accused person was also intercepted with CD’s “containing coded messages for the West African chief of the Al-Qaeda” on his way back to Nigeria, with subsequent interrogation of the suspects revealing that it was Mr Ashafa who took them for terrorism training in the Sahel region.

He added that he interrogated the said West African chief of Al-Qaeda in 2006 when he was intercepted by the Libyan authorities and that Mr Ibrahim confirmed to him that he sent Mr Ashafa to Pakistan with another Nigerian terrorist, named, Yusuf Ahamed.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Adamu Bello adjourned the case to 9 May, for continuation of hearing to enable the prosecution come with a formal application for the release of the statement of the accused person.

The SSS had earlier arrested the accused person six years ago on allegation that he was the one piloting the affairs of the Al_Qaeda network in Nigeria.

Specifically, he was on December 20, 2006, arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala Nyako on a 5 count criminal charge of receiving monies in foreign currencies from Talha and Na’deem (Al-Qaeda Operatives) of the Tabliqh Headquarters, Lahore, Pakistan for the recruiting and training of terrorists whose main objective is to attack residences of Americans living in Nigeria.

Though he was subsequently granted bail by the high court, he was rearrested by the SSS at the National Mosque in Abuja last year.