MASS arrest and parade of suspects, who confessed to one role or the other in the current insurgency in the North, were among the feats recorded by security forces yesterday.
The confession of the suspects came as the United States (U.S.) government yesterday joined Nigeria’s crackdown on suspected terrorists by placing some leaders of the Boko Haram sect on its terror list.
Although the Barack Obama administration did not outrightly declare Boko Haram a Foreign Terror Group (FTO), in a statement issued yesterday by the State Department, the U.S. named those affected by the action as the leaders of the group, Abubakar Shekau, 43, Abubakar Adam Kambar, 35, and Khalid al-Barnawi, 35.
Among those arrested by the Joint Task Force (JTF) yesterday in Damaturu, Yobe State, was a kingpin of the group, identified as Habib Bama.
He was alleged to be the mastermind of the bombing of a church in Madalla, near Abuja. Bama was arrested in the early hours of yesterday in the state capital.
The Yobe State Commander of JTF, Col. Dahiru Abdulsalam, told reporters that Bama’s arrest was due to a tip-off from some residents in Damaturu and Potiskum.
He said: “Our men and other intelligence agents in the state in the early hours of Thursday (yesterday) arrested Habib Bama.
He was picked up from a location in Damaturu metropolis while attempting to escape this morning.”
He urged the residents to continue to co-operate with the JTF, Police and other security operatives in their effort to restore peace in Yobe.
The confession of the suspects of the bombing of churches in Biu, Borno State, depicted the horrible situation in Nigeria and the bestiality of man.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, just released from prison then, may have adequately captured the present scenario in his 386-page book: This Animal Called Man.
The title of the book suggested a demeaning of the human person, but as some foot soldiers used in the bombing of the Biu churches made their confessions, it was clear the title was very apt.
It was a shell-shock time for journalists covering the parade of the suspects as they opened up on their escapades. A suspected kingpin of the terror group, Magaji Bala, told reporters that he paid a paltry sum of N7,500 to each of the six suspects to attack one of the churches and kill an undisclosed number of worshippers in the town, located 187 kilometres south of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Bala said: “I gave each of the six suspects N7,500 to facilitate and execute the attack on one of the churches at 9.35 a.m.”
He told reporters that he belonged to the Boko Haram sect in Biu and that the suspects were butchers in the town. Bala said they were arrested in their respective houses at 2.30 p.m. after they launched the attack.
Spokesman of JTF, Lt.-Col. Sagri Musa, said the task-force was still quizzing other suspects linked with the incident, adding that they were picked up from various locations following information provided by residents on their profession and residences in Biu.
Another suspect, Ibrahim Mohammed Babangida, said: “Magaji Bala came to me at my meat shop and asked me to assist him in executing the activities of our association (Boko Haram sect) at an undisclosed church. He gave me N7,500 cash and left without giving me further instructions on how to assist him.”
The others were Alhassan Inuwa, Nuhu Zakari, Dahiru Sa’adu, Mohammed Nurah and Mohammed Sani.
Sagir alerted residents on the use of stolen or snatched vehicles by terrorists for suicide car-bombings and attacks.
He said: “Information recently available to the JTF in Maiduguri indicated that there have been desperate moves by Boko Haram to steal/snatch vehicles to be used for terrorists’ activities by implanting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in vehicles and or through suicide car-bombing.” He warned that such vehicles if used for terrorism acts would lead to their owners being treated as collaborators and accomplices.
The three Boko Haram members on the U.S. terror list will now be subjected to America’s search and military action.
The U.S. said Shekau, Kambar and al-Barnawi are now “specially designated global terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order (EO) 13224.”
The three-paragraph statement concluded that “the designation under EO, that is executive order 13224, blocks all of Shekau’s, Kambar’s and al-Barnawi’s property interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits American persons from engaging in transactions with or for the benefit of these individuals. These designations demonstrate the United States’ resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks. The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.”
It said Shekau “is the most visible leader of the Nigeria-based militant group, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, commonly referred to as Boko Haram. Khalid al-Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kambar have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation.”
The U.S. said: “Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in northern Nigeria, its primary area of operation. In the last 18 months, Boko Haram or associated militants have killed more than 1,000 people. Boko Haram is credited with the August 26, 2011 attack on the United Nations (UN) building in Abuja that killed at least 23 people and wounded scores more. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for the December 25, 2011 attack on the Saint Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla that killed at least 35 and wounded dozens more. Boko Haram’s deadliest violence occurred on January 20, 2012 in Kano, with a series of attacks that killed more than 180 people. Boko Haram‘s victims have been overwhelmingly civilians.”
Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Prof. Ade Adefuye, told The Guardian that the Federal Government had been informed of the action.
Adefuye, who expressed sadness over the development, said he would continue Nigeria’s campaign in the U.S. government circles, both at the Congress and at the White House to subvert plans to designate a group from Nigeria as terrorists because of the implications for all Nigerians, especially when they travel.
He said: “I am heading out to Congress and the White House this morning (yesterday)” to avert plans to bring the entire country under the designation and expressed hopes that based on the warm relationships between the embassy and the U.S. government, such clampdown could be stalled.”
But the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Dr. Lateef Adegbite, has asked the U.S. not to list Boko Haram as a terrorist group because of the grave implication of such classification.
Adegbite said Nigeria should be given more time to dialogue with the group and reintegrate its members into the larger society.
The terror attacks, he stated, were “a total challenge and war against all Nigerians,” adding that “it is beyond religion and against the people of this country.”
He said Nigerians must ensure that the attacks by the terror group does not degenerate into turning the nation into another Afghanistan, Somalia and Mali.
Adegbite told journalists after a meeting with Vice President Namadi Sambo that the government was doing its best, as the perpetrators of the terror attacks “are faceless people.”
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), South-East zone, has condemned the killing of Christians in the North by terrorists.
After a meeting in Enugu yesterday, the NUJ urged the government to adopt proactive measures to stem the tide.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting signed by the Vice President (Zone C), Mr. Chris Isiguzo and Zonal Secretary, Monic Okechukwu, the union frowned at the deplorable condition of federal roads in the zone and called on the government to address the situation.
Also, leaders of former militants in the Niger Delta have appealed to the government to deal decisively with the Boko Haram insurgency before reprisal attacks become a trend.
In a statement issued after a meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, they feared that with the pattern the insurgency had taken, after President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure, similar attacks on the new government possibly will be initiated by aggrieved regions.
“The Federal Government must forcefully stop this strange and dangerous ominous trend in our polity. We recall how the Nigerian government deployed armed troops in the Niger Delta, which decimated Odi, Ayakoromo, Gbaramatu Kingdom and other communities in its alleged bid to combat militancy. It is however strange to note that the government has treated the Boko Haram insurgency with kid gloves,” the statement added.