The Federal Government will continue to monitor the activities of terrorists online to control radicalisation of Nigerians by terrorist groups and other violent cells, the President has said.
President Muhammadu Buhari explained that this was important following the huge traffic online and growing constraints on physical contacts and movements due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He made the remarks on Wednesday in Abuja, while participating at the AQABA Process virtual meeting in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
“It is important to state that the spread of COVID-19 has led to the movement of activities to cyberspace,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
He added, “Furthermore, lockdown policies and restrictions of movement in affected areas means that people would move their day to day social and business activities to cyberspace.
“This, however, comes with an increase in the risk of individuals being radicalised online.”
Sustaining Human Security
President Buhari said the Federal Government would sustain efforts to make adjustments to new lifestyles and be sensitive to the security underpinnings, as experts try to find vaccines for COVID-19 and a possible acceptable cure.
He noted that Nigeria developed a robust framework led by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to coordinate and oversee the country’s multi-sectoral inter-governmental efforts at containing the spread and mitigating the impact of the pandemic.
“This was done while currently monitoring the effects of the measures and taking steps to mitigate these effects as quickly as possible. This was in a bid to ensure sustained human security across the population.
“Earlier, we had established the National Humanitarian Coordination Committee with the responsibility of providing among others, a national vision for humanitarian actors and settling disputes that may arise from interactions between security services and the humanitarian community.
“This committee was timely as a stop-gap measure in coping with the effects of COVID-19,” the President told the meeting.
An Economic Crisis
He disclosed that the government had also taken measures to tackle the devastation of social and economic dimensions of the pandemic, with a focus on the most vulnerable citizens in the society through the provision of palliatives and other economic stimulus packages.
President Buhari explained that the measures came at a cost, but would be sustained while citing Mali as an example where social and economic challenges took a toll on the government and pushed democracy to a “breaking point.”
“Such a situation could create a vacuum that can be exploited by terrorists and violent extremists,” he said.
The President also informed the gathering of Heads of Governments at the meeting that the security landscape in Nigeria and across West Africa has continued to evolve with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that various systems in society came grinding to a halt as a result of the urgent measures taken to slow down the spread of the disease.
According to him, the measures were taken while being mindful of the toll that the virus has had in the various epicentres across the world where medical structures were strained up to breaking point while dealing with mass casualties as a result of infections from the disease.
“These measures are not without their challenges as livelihood were drastically affected and civic lifestyle is being tested to its limits.
“The whole instruments of government are now mobilised to confront what has now turned both a health emergency and an economic crisis,” President Buhari said.
The military has handed over 778 people comprising abducted victims, as well as wives and children of dislodged Boko Haram terrorists to authorities in their respective states.
They were handed over to the authorities on Monday during an event held at the 4 Special Forces Command of the Nigerian Army in Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.
In his remarks, the Commandant, Major General Maude Gadzama, revealed that the persons came from various northern states.
He revealed that they were intercepted during various joint ‘Operation Nutcracker’ by a combined team of security operatives who forced the terrorists to flee from their hideouts, leaving their victims, wives, and children behind.
The operatives include troops of Operation Whirl Stroke, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Lugard, Nigerian Air Force, Command Army Records, Guards Brigade, Nigeria Police, and the Department of State Services (DSS).
“Our gallant men and tracking experts are tracking escapee leaders such as Sadiqu, Babuji Yellow, and Buji,” Gadzama said.
He added, “The dragnet is becoming closer and closer by the day while the tracking signals are getting stronger by the seconds, therefore, catching up this window of opportunity given by the Chief of Army Staff for all terrorists to surrender. They must not miss this ample opportunity.”
The major general revealed that the terrorists settled in forest areas at the borders of Benue and Nasarawa States eight years ago but became hostile only seven months ago.
According to him, members of the group previously known as Darus-Salam are said to have relocated from Niger State before a Boko Haram leader came there, executed their leader and deputy, as well as brainwashed them with the beliefs of Boko Haram.
Gadzama explained that the terrorists were planning to unleash mayhem in the FCT and parts of the North before they were busted by security operatives.
He said while some of the women were abductees who were forced to become sex slaves, others aided and abetted terrorism.
The military officer stated that those being handed over would be profiled and rehabilitated and others found culpable would be investigated and prosecuted accordingly.
At the event, Nasarawa, Kogi, and Niger States, as well as the FCT were represented while there was no representation from the remaining northern states.
The Deputy Governor of Nasarawa, Emmanuel Akabe, whose state received 19 people added his voice to the call by the military for terrorists to surrender their weapons.
He said, “We need peace in this country, we need peace everywhere. Without peace, there can’t be development and Nigeria needs development.
“Without peace, there cannot be progress and Nigeria needs to progress and it is for their own good that wherever they are (the fleeing terrorists), they should come out and surrender themselves.”
On his part, Niger State Deputy Governor, Ahmad Ketso, whose state got 318 people, revealed the action plan of the government.
He explained that the government has made an arrangement that on arrival, the persons would be profiled and questioned on where they were coming from and their various local governments.
The Senior Special Assistant on the Kogi State Governor on Security, Doru Jerry, also received 46 people on behalf of the state government.
He said, “The Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies must go all out ensure that they clear the remnants and ensure that those captured are well profiled by the various states.”
Several arms, ammunition, improvised explosive devices, and rocket making materials recovered from the camps of the criminals were paraded at the event.
The military says it has destroyed a Tactical Command Centre of the Boko Haram terrorist group and killed some of their fighters at Yuwe in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno State.
Major General John Enenche, the Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, disclosed this in a statement on Friday.
He explained that the feat was recorded by the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation Lafiya Dole, in continuation of the air interdiction missions being conducted under the subsidiary Operation Long Reach to unhinge the leadership of the insurgents in the North East
According to the military spokesman, the operation was executed on Wednesday after a series of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions observed the significant presence of insurgents in the settlement.
He added that the ISR missions established that a prominent compound with solar panel-mounted rooftop and a large tree in the middle with a nearby flag-mounted sentry post was being used by the terrorists to coordinate their operations in the area.
The statement read, “Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jets dispatched by the ATF to take out the command centre took turns in attacking the location scoring accurate hits, leading to the destruction of the centre and surrounding structures, as well as the neutralisation of several fighters.
“The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, commends the ATF for their dedication and professionalism.
“The Defence Headquarters equally urges them to intensify the air offensive against the terrorists and all other criminal elements in the country.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to continually frustrate the goal of terrorists to hold Nigeria to ransom, insisting that their days are numbered.
President Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Monday, condemned the “murderous and cowardly attack on innocent passengers by the Boko Haram terrorists near Maiduguri.”
The insurgents attacked stranded passengers on Sunday night at Auno, a village near Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, killing 10 people and burnt no fewer than 18 cars, including heavy-duty trucks.
Mba also noted that the suspects are already assisting police investigators with useful information relating to the membership spread and make-up, criminal/operational records, logistics and general modus operandi of the terror group.
He also noted that preliminary investigation revealed that the arrested suspects were actively involved in the recent attack and attempted kidnap of the Emir of Potiskum that resulted in the gruesome killing of the Emir’s Police escorts.
According to the Force PRO, they were also involved in several other kidnap operations and terror attacks on commuters and other innocent citizens along some major highways, especially in the North-West and North Central States of the country.
Meanwhile, Mba noted that the investigation also revealed that some citizens, especially those within the business community, give tacit support to the terror groups by deliberately doing businesses with them through the supply of essential goods, drugs (licit/illicit) and other services.
He, therefore, noted that the IGP calls for patriotism amongst the people, noting that that is the only way the fight against the criminal elements can truly be won.
The IGP has also thanked other members of public for their understanding, cooperation and support which according to him, have resulted in the measure of successes recorded so far particularly in the fight against terrorism, banditry and other heinous crimes in the country.
The police say they have lost two officers involved in a raid on a camp hosting members of the Ansaru terrorist group in Kaduna State.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) in charge of Operations, Abdulmajid Ali, disclosed this on Friday two days after the security operatives battled the terrorists.
Ali, who revealed that 12 others suffered critical injuries, said they were already receiving treatment at different hospitals in the Kaduna State capital.
Speaking during a visit to one of the medical facilities, the DIG was pleased that the injured officers were stable and responding to treatment.
He stressed that not even the casualty on the side of the police would deter the force from crushing the bandits from their hideouts in all parts of the country.
According to the DIG, the Force is currently executing about 50 operations in the North-West and North-Central regions of Nigeria.
He explained that the operations were aimed at flushing out members of the terrorist group and other criminal elements from their camps.
Chopper Shot Down?
On Wednesday, the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said the police “successfully neutralised over 250 high-profile members.”
He noted that the operation was carried out following actionable intelligence linking terror and criminal elements in the camp to a series of terror-related violence, kidnappings, gun-running, cattle rustling, and other heinous crimes in the country.
Mba had confirmed that the bandits attacked a police bell helicopter, which provided aerial and intelligence cover for the ground troops, using sophisticated anti-aircraft rifles and GPMG.
Amid the reports that the aircraft was shot down by the bandits, the police spokesman said, “Commendably, the pilot and the co-pilot who demonstrated uncommon courage and expertise, successfully landed the aircraft at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna without further incident.”
He, however, admitted that the two officers were injured but not “non-life-threatening” ones.
Although the police did not disclose the identities of the slain officers, it is unclear if any of the injured pilots is among those who lost their lives.
The Department of State Services (DSS) has dismissed reports circulating all over social media regarding a purported message by the Service aimed at alerting the public about the movement of terrorists into the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other parts of the country.
In a statement by its spokesman, Dr Peter Afunanya, the DSS also refuted reports that luxury buses of three major transport companies were hijacked on the Lokoja-Okene Road by persons suspected to be championing an ethnic agenda.
The DSS said the alert purportedly issued by the Service on the arrival of Boko Haram and other terrorist elements to the aforementioned places has been in circulation since 2013 when it was first created by mischief makers whose handiwork is to cause chaos.
Dr Afunanya noted that the reports concerning alleged attack on the luxury buses conveying a particular ethnic group to their local base were first created some years back to deceive and incite unsuspecting persons.
The public was urged to disregard the fallacious narratives and reports in their entirety, as fake news that they are.
“DSS wishes to dismiss them as non-existent and therefore describe them as a figment of the imagination of their creators. The illusive stories are merely designed by some zealots to instigate ethnoreligious and political crises of violent and destructive dimensions across the country.
“It has, however, become obvious that the main aim of engaging in these undesirable actions is to also undermine national security for the achievement of some ulterior goals.
“The Service frowned at the continuous exploitation of social, religious and tribal differences by purveyors of doom to ignite extreme violent actions among the populace.
“While security and law enforcement agencies are totally committed to sustaining maximum efforts in ensuring public safety in the Nation, citizens are enjoined to disregard these deceitful reports that do not emanate from the Service and go about their normal businesses.
“Considering that security is a collective responsibility of all and sundry, everyone is advised to be more committed in this regard and report suspicious persons to relevant security agencies nearest to them,” the statement read in part.
Meanwhile, the Service said it will continue to collaborate with sister agencies to ensure adequate protection for the people, government and critical infrastructure.
The DSS further noted that it will also not fail to make defaulters face, within the ambit of the law, consequences of their illicit activities.
A Police Bell helicopter was attacked on Wednesday when men of the Nigeria Police Force attacked and killed terrorists and bandits during an early morning operation in Kaduna State.
Police say that over 250 terrorists and bandits were killed as tactical forces stormed Ansaru Terrorists’ Camp.
According to Police Spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, the helicopter, which provided aerial and intelligence cover for the ground troops came under attack from the bandits using sophisticated anti-aircraft rifles and GPMG.
Mr Frank Mba however, noted that the pilot and co-pilot who demonstrated uncommon courage and expertise successfully landed the aircraft at the Air Force Base in Kaduna without further incident.
The police image-maker further revealed that the two officials were thereafter evacuated for medical treatment, adding that both officers who sustained non-life threatening injuries are currently receiving treatment and are in stable condition.
He also stated that the police helicopter has since been flown out of the Kaduna Air Force Base by Police Pilots en-route to Abuja.
On Wednesday, Special Operatives of Operation Puff Adder of the Nigeria Police backed by the Special Forces of the Police Airwing, in a daring offensive operation, stormed one of the largest operational camps of the Ansaru Terror Group (also housing other bandits and kidnappers) located in Kuduru Forest, Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State.
The security operatives successfully neutralized over 250 high-profile members of the Ansaru Terror Group, police authorities claim.
According to the Force, the operation was necessitated by actionable intelligence linking terror and criminal elements in the super camp to series of terror-related violence, kidnappings, gun-running, cattle rustling and other heinous crimes across the country.
Reacting to Wednesday’s operation, the Inspector General of Police assured citizens of safety and sustained intelligence-led operations against bandits across the length and breadth of the nation.
He equally applauded the unparalleled bravery, commitment, and dedication of the Police operatives currently conducting the special mission.
The Nigeria Police Force says it has killed many terrorists and bandits during an early morning operation in Kaduna State.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, revealed that the operation was carried out by a combined team of operatives of Operation Puff Adder.
They comprise operatives of the Police Mobile Force (PMF), Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Special Forces, Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Special Tactical Squad (STS), and Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“Special operatives of Operation Puff Adder of the Nigeria Police backed by the Special Forces of the Police Airwing, in a daring offensive operation, stormed one of the largest operational camps of the Ansaru Terror Group (also housing other bandits and kidnappers) located in Kuduru Forest, Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State and successfully neutralised over 250 high-profile members of the Ansaru Terror Group,” Mba said.
He explained that the operation was necessitated by actionable intelligence linking terror and criminal elements in the camp to a series of terror-related violence, kidnappings, gun-running, cattle rustling, and other heinous crimes in the country.
Unfortunately, the police spokesman regretted that a police bell helicopter, which provided aerial and intelligence cover for the ground troops, came under attack during the operation.
According to him, the bandits attacked the aircraft using sophisticated anti-aircraft rifles and GPMG.
“Commendably, the pilot and the co-pilot who demonstrated uncommon courage and expertise, successfully landed the aircraft at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna without further incident,” Mba said.
He added, “They were, thereafter, evacuated for medical treatment. Both officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries are currently receiving treatment and are in stable condition.
The Force public relations officer said the helicopter has since been flown out of the Kaduna Air Force Base by police pilots en-route to Abuja.
In his reaction, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, applauded the bravery, commitment, and dedication of the police operatives conducting the special mission.
He also assured Nigerians of their safety and sustained intelligence-led operations against bandits across the length and breadth of the nation.
Fifteen members of Mali’s security forces died in a jihadist assault on Sunday at a camp in the center of the country, military and local sources said.
“At least 15 Malian military were killed Sunday in the Sokolo military camp during an attack by terrorists,” a Malian military source told AFP.
A local lawmaker said all those killed were gendarmes, or paramilitary police officers, adding that he saw “two other bodies outside the camp.”
“The terrorists arrived on motorcycles,” said the official, who asked not to be named for security reasons.
“They were well-armed. They entered the Sokolo camp. They took away a lot of material”, he said, adding that other officers were able to leave the camp.
“It was complete chaos,” said a local humanitarian source who managed to enter the camp after the suspected jihadists had left.
“In the camp, we counted 15 military bodies. All the military material had been taken. It looked like the attackers knew what they were doing,” the source said.
Sokolo is located in the central Segou region where jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda are known to operate.
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012 and has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.
Mali announced Wednesday it would hold legislative elections in late March after repeated postponements prompted by insecurity and political infighting.
Holding the elections was a key recommendation from crisis talks in December aimed at exploring non-military solutions to the worsening violence.
Despite some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, plus a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.