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Soldiers kill 8 Boko Haram fighters in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 20 February, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) said it killed eight Islamist insurgents who had attacked civilians in a market in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

Local residents said the Boko Haram attack on the market was apparently a reprisal against the arrest of a member by some traders four days earlier. On 16 February, a lone gunman had walked into the market on a killing mission; but as he was about to pull the trigger of his AK-47 rifle, some traders over-powered him. A local source said the group probably went back to the market to “teach the traders a bitter lesson” over their action, attacking them with explosive devices which then attracted the JTF’s intervention.

The spokesman for the JTF, Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, said: “This afternoon, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram sect members attacked three civilians at the Baga Road Fish Market. The JTF men came on a rescue operation, engaged the suspects in a shoot-out and succeeded in killing eight of them”.

He further stated that “The JTF detonated three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and defused several others recovered from the attackers. We also recovered large number of arms and ammunition from them”. He said the JTF had cordoned off the entire area and a “come down and search operation” was going on to uncover any hidden weapons and IEDs. He added that no JTF soldier was wounded or killed in the shoot-out.

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Bomb explosion in Suleja near Abuja, 5 wounded

On 19 February, an improvised bomb exploded near a church in Suleja, a town in Niger State, but on the edge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The blast occurred on Morocco Road, at the heart of the commercial area of the town, wounding five people and damaging five cars.

According to Uyi Idugboe, pastor of the Christ Embassy Church, the blast struck just a few minutes after the church service had started at 10 am. He said a member of the church, who had gone out to check that his vehicle was locked, spotted a suspicious-looking package lying between two cars. He promptly alerted everyone to stay indoors.

Said Idugboe: “When we were alerted, about 25 minutes before the detonation, we called everybody inside the church. That is why we don’t have casualties”.

The Commissioner of Police in Niger State, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishanu, reported that no one was killed by the blast. Yushua Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also confirmed that: “No person died in the Suleja explosion. One person was seriously injured and is now in hospital. Four victims had minor injuries while five vehicles were damaged”.

Responding to the incident, large numbers of soldiers, police and other security operatives soon cordoned off the area, to enable bomb experts commence investigations.

Churches in Suleja and nearby Madalla have been targeted repeatedly by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northern states of the country. Its most recent attack in the area was the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla, which killed about 43 people and wounded 57.

However, security operatives have arrested the suspected mastermind of that attack. More recently, the State Security Service (SSS) reportedly raided the home of one Bashiru Madalla, identified as coordinator of Boko Haram’s operations in the FCT and Niger State; but the suspect is said to be on the run.

Boko Haram raids prison in Kogi State, kills guard, frees inmates

On 15 February, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, raided a prison in Koton-Karfi, Kogi State, killing a security man and freeing their colleagues who had been held in the facility

Local sources said the attackers, numbering over 20, stormed the prison on motor bikes around 7 pm, immediately after the Magrib prayer. They shot a security man at the gate, killing him instantly. They then blew up the main gate of the prison with an Improvised Explosive Device and went inside.

While shooting to scare any prison officers that may have thought to challenge them, they freed some of their detained colleagues. After the gunmen had left the premises with their members, other prisoners also took advantage of the situation and escaped. The sources said the entire operation lasted about 30 minutes. The number of Boko Haram suspects freed, and of other prisoners that subsequently escaped, is not yet known.

This is Boko Haram’s third attack on a prison in the last 18 months. On 7 September 2010, about 50 Boko Haram gunmen attacked the prison in Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State, enabling the escape of 721 out of the 759 prisoners then held in the facility, mostly suspects arrested after the sect’s uprising in July 2009. Again on 22 April 2011, Boko Haram gunmen broke into the jail in Yola, Adamawa State, and freed 14 prisoners.

Kano now “urban jungle”, committee blames poverty, poor governance

On 15 February, the Kano State government released the report of a committee it set up to probe unrest in the city: the report said poor governance, poverty and unregulated migration had turned the largest metropolis in northern Nigeria to “an urban jungle”.

Kano had been in a security crisis, sharply aggravated by the 20 January bomb and gun attacks staged by the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, which killed at least 185 people. In the wake of those attacks, the Kano state governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, constituted a 15-member committee of political and business leaders to probe the factors fueling unrest in the city.

Magaji Dambatta, who headed the committee, said that “With the virtual collapse of governance structure at community level, making it impossible to keep track of activities in local communities… Kano has unfortunately been reduced to an urban jungle”. The report further cited “the uncontrolled influx of foreigners” as a cause of insecurity. It called for “massive assistance” from the federal government to tackle the city’s staggering poverty and explosive unemployment.

Since 2010, Boko Haram has been waging an insurgent campaign with the goal of establishing Islamic government under strict and comprehensive Sharia law, in the northern parts of the country. While its attacks had been largely in the north-eastern states, the 20 January 20 gun and bomb assault on Kano, was the group’s bloodiest attack. On January 26, a security source said Nigeria had arrested some 200 foreign “Boko Haram ”, mainly from Chad, who may have been involved in the attacks.

Gunmen attack Police station in Kano, Kano State

On 6 February, gunmen and bombers, suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, set the Sharada police station on fire, in Kano, capital of Kano State.

A senior police officer said the police station had been burned down by attackers armed with explosives. He said in the shootout between the attackers and the police, a police officer was shot in the leg.

The attack reportedly occurred around 6pm, just before the commencement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the city following the 20 January multiple bomb and gun attacks that killed over 200 people. One resident said she saw the police station on fire from her house and that more policemen and soldiers were later deployed to the area. Others said spent bullets and used explosives littered the grounds around the area, after the gun duel between the attackers and the police.

The Kano State Police Command confirmed the incident, saying one police man was hurt, but it was yet to give further details.

Local sources also said they heard a separate gun battle in the Mariri area of the city. Some said the sounds of gunfire came from an area suspected to be a Boko Haram hideout on the outskirts of Kano. They said a security team had apparently raided a home in the neighbourhood, leading to a shootout with the occupants. Others said the gunshots seem to have come from the Danladi Nasidi police station in the area. There had been no official statement from the police.

Boko Haram confirms slaughtering 6 “traitors”, threatens more “executions” in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 2 February, a spokesman for the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, confirmed that it was his group that killed the six men slaughtered on the night of Wednesday 1 February, in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

The six men were killed in the Shehuri north area of the city, by assailants who trailed them to their houses around midnight and slaughtered them with knives. In a statement following the killings, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, had said preliminary investigations revealed the men were “slaughtered by persons suspected to be their fellow sect members”. He had also suggested that the killings “may have been as a result of division among sect members”.

In a telephone interview with some journalists in Maiduguri, the Boko Haram spokesman who identified himself as Abul Qaqa, confirmed the JTF’s revelation. He said the six men were slaughtered because they were among the traitors who betrayed 11 members of the sect, leading to their elimination by JTF four days earlier.

He further disclosed that the six men slaughtered were only part of a longer list of persons whom the group plans to eliminate. He said: “We have earmarked 30 of them for execution because they betrayed our group”.

It will be recalled that on 28 January, 11 members of Boko Haram were killed by JTF in Maiduguri. In the wake of those killings, the victims’ families had claimed that the men killed were not members of the militant sect, alleging human rights violations and demanding a probe.

The confirmation by the Boko Haram spokesman seems to have put paid to those denials and demands. It also seems to confirm the JTF’s suspicion of a feud within some members of the sect. It thus raises fears of further factional killings within the group in Maiduguri.

6 killed in suspected feud within Boko Haram in Maiduguri, says JTF

On 2 February, six persons were killed by unknown assailants in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. The military Joint Task Force (JTF) said the victims were probably members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, and may have been eliminated by their own colleagues.

The six people were killed while sleeping in their homes in Shehuri North, a northern part of the city known as the base of Boko Haram.

A statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of the JTF, Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, said the victims may have been killed by people suspected to be members of Boko Haram, as a result of a division within the sect.

Colonel Mohammed said: “Preliminary investigations reveal that the six deceased persons were suspected to have been slaughtered by persons suspected to be their fellow Boko Haram members….The killing may have been as a result of division among Boko Haram sect members”.

In other incidents, multiple blasts occurred in parts of the city early in the day. Col Mohammed confirmed that they were caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) but said there were no casualties. He said the JTF had also defused some unexploded devices and advised residents to remain security conscious and alert.

Abul Qaqa, Boko Haram spokesman, arrested by SSS

On 1 February, an official of the State Security Service (SSS) said the agency had arrested Abul Qaqa, the spokesman of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram.

An unnamed official had initially told Reuters news agency that security operatives were still trying to confirm the identity of the man arrested.  He said: “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”.

However, a later statement by a top SSS officer in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, confirmed the man arrested was actually the Boko Haram spokesman.

The officer said the man was arrested after security operatives had tracked signals from his mobile phone, using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. He further said the arrest of Qaqa, “a senior member of the Shura (Supreme Council) of the sect”, was “a landmark feat that was achieved through collaboration with various stakeholders”.

As there is yet no official report of this development, several accounts are emerging about how Qaqa was arrested. One source reports that he was arrested after security officials had traced the house he was staying in and that he was picked up without any exchange of gunfire with members of his group. Another account said he was seized while attempting to enter the Central Market in Kaduna. The SSS is expected to issue an official briefing that will clear up these contradictions.

Abul Qaqa had often spoken to journalists in the wake of bomb and gun attacks, claiming responsibility for several deadly incidents in the northern states and the federal capital, Abuja.

His most recent interaction with journalists was on 28 January, when he told some newsmen on phone, that security agents had arrested “many” members of his sect in Sokoto and demanded their “immediate and unconditional” release. He threatened that Boko Haram would attack Sokoto in the same manner as it bombed Kano city on 20 January, if the arrested men were not released.

One report said the arrested man is a Nigerian citizen, and that he is not from the far north of the country, but from central Kogi State, ethnically an Igala. This is yet to be confirmed by security authorities.

Gunmen attack police station in Kano, Kano State

On 29 January, gunmen believed to be members of the militant Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, bombed a police station at Naibawa district outside Kano city, capital of Kano State.

Local sources said the attack took place near the Naibawa motor park, a major bus terminal on the fringe of the city. They said a large number of gunmen stormed the area at prayer time, hurled an explosive at the police station and then opened fire on it. They said as the police returned fire, a gun duel ensued.

The Commissioner of Police in Kano State, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said the blast caused damage to “part of the police station”.  He also confirmed that the blast was followed by about an hour-long gun fight, adding that: “We were able to push them out of the area”.

Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria and populated by about 10 million people, recently came under a siege mounted by members of Boko Haram. The sect said it is fighting to install Islamic governments under strict and comprehensive sharia law across northern Nigeria.

On 20 January, it staged multiple bomb and gun attacks across Kano city, mostly targeting police stations, and killing over 200 persons.

On 26 January, the presumed leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, posted an audio tape on the Internet threatened to kill more security personnel, kidnap their families and also attack western-style educational institutions.

On 28 January, the group’s spokesman, Abul Qaqa, told some journalists on phone that security agents had arrested “many” of its members in Sokoto and demanded their “immediate and unconditional” release.

Qaqa he urged senior citizens in Sokoto and neighbouring states to intervene in order to avert a repeat of “the big attack in Kano State”. He said:  “This is an open letter to the Emir of Sokoto (Sultan of Sokoto) Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and the Acting Governor of Sokoto State.

The Sultan of Sokoto is the spiritual leader of all Muslims in Nigeria and has expressed disapproval of Boko Haram’s violence, publicly and repeatedly. Speaker Tambuwal, who hails from the village of Tambuwal in Sokoto State, is the highest ranking figure from the state within the Federal Government.

President Jonathan visits Kano, vows relentless fight against terrorism

President Jonathan arriving Kano, with Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Petinrin (L) and Kano State Gov Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (R)

On 22 January, President Goodluck Jonathan paid a visit to Kano city, the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, following multiple bomb attacks on the city two days earlier which killed over 180 people. A spokesman for the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram had said his group was responsible for the attacks.

During his two hour visit, the President stopped at the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the bombed headquarters of the Police Zone 1 (covering Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States) and the military hospital where some victims of the bombing were being treated.

In his speech at the Emir’s palace, Jonathan vowed that the Federal Government will not relent in its fight against terrorism, until the terrorists are defeated. He said those behind the bombings were not invisible spirits but “people that live with us”, and urged greater security consciousness and vigilance by citizens, in order to fish them out.

The Kano monarch, in an unprecedented show of emotion, broke down in tears repeatedly, as he reviewed the human loss caused by the bomb attacks on his city.

He expressed deep appreciation for the President’s visit, but regretted that Kano, a sprawling city with a population of over 9 million, was under-policed with only 8,000 law officers. He appealed to the President to boost police presence in the city, as a step towards preventing further attacks.

President Jonathan was accompanied on the visit by the National Security Adviser, retired General Andrew Azazi; Defense Minister, Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed; Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin; and several other top government and security officials.

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