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Committee on Boko Haram submits interim report, granted 2 more weeks for final report

ANYIM PIUS ANYIM Secretary to the Government of the Federation

On 18 August, the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-east submitted an interim report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim. The Committee also requested for, and was granted, two more weeks to tidy up its work.

Presenting the Committee’s interim report, the Chairman, Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, detailed its efforts and achievements in the two weeks it was initially granted for its work.

He said the committee had gone round the affected states, held series of meetings with security agencies and gathered enough information to advise the government on the way forward. He also said its final report would include major recommendations which the government must implement as a matter of urgency. The committee, however, asked that it be given extra two weeks to tidy up the final report.

Granting the request, Anyim said the suggestions and recommendations already laid out in the interim report would remained sealed and await the submission of the final report in two weeks’ time.

It will be recalled that the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-east, established essentially to address the challenge posed by the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, was inaugurated on 2 August. Its terms of reference initially mandated it to “initiate negotiations” with the Islamist group, but the government later stalled and said it should serve only as a fact-gathering and consultative body.

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Boko Haram denies reported break-up, says it remains “one indivisible entity”

On 23 July, the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, which has been in conflict with security forces in Borno State, denied the reported division in its ranks, saying it “remains one indivisible entity”.

On 20 July, a splinter group identifying itself as Yusufiyya Islamic Movement (YIM) had distributed leaflets declaring it had parted ways with the Boko Haram group. It denounced Boko Haram’s attacks on civilian targets which it blamed on infiltration of the group by “evil elements” and declared a ceasefire for the duration of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

But in a statement posted in its website, entitled ‘A Call to Service’, Boko Haram said the story about the emergence of the faction was concocted by the State Security Service (SSS) to discredit the Islamist group.

The group said: “There is no split and there is no splinter group. Stories of split are tissues of lies by the State Security Service to discredit us. We call on all true faithful who believe in our cause to join us by enlisting as a follower and become a member of the brotherhood”.

In the statement, Boko Haram also demanded that the SSS release all innocent citizens detained as its members, at various locations in the country, “without further delay”. It stated that it had concluded plans to forcefully free Hon. Yakubu Bityong Nkom, a member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly recently arrested over his alleged link with the group, before security agencies released him last week.

The statement said: “The SSS (has) saved (its) face from what would have been a huge national embarrassment by releasing Hon. Yakubu Bityong Nkom, a member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly on Wednesday, 20th of July 2011, because we were at the verge of storming his detention facility to effect his release, after the successful conduct of our survey and intelligence gathering”.

Police officer shot dead by gunmen in Kano

On 20 June, a Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr Umar Sufi, was shot dead in Gundowawa, within the Dakata area of Kano, capital of Kano State.

Sources said he was attacked by unidentified gunmen in an incident that sent many running for their dear lives.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police for Kano State confirmed the killing of the police officer. He said it was a robbery incident.

However, many residents say it might have been an attack by the Islamist group, popularly known as Boko Haram (“Western education is sin”). The group, which has conducted a campaign of serial killings and bombings, especially against policemen in Borno State since mid-2010, recently served notice that it will be launching  fiercer and wider attacks against the police and other government security personnel in the northern states of the country.

Gunmen kill four at drinking joint in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 12 June, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, shot four men to death at a drinking joint in Bulumkutu, a suburb of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

Local sources say policemen who were attracted to the scene by the shots engaged the gunmen in a shootout, but the assailants escaped arrest.

Confirming the incident, the Public Relations Officer of the Borno State Police Command, Malam Lawal Abdullahi, told newsmen in Maiduguri that: “They (the gunmen) raided the joint and shot the victims who were busy drinking. All the victims died even after some were rushed to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) for help”.

He explained that the reason the militants were able to carry out the attack successfully, was because the joint was not properly secured by the owner.

The police spokesman said: “The area is purely residential and the owner illegally converted the place to a beer parlour without properly registering the place. If the place had been properly registered, there would have been the presence of security agents to safeguard it, especially in the face of the security challenges facing the state”.

Borno State adopted Sharia law on 19 August 2000, one of the 12 northern states that did so a decade ago. Under the new religious code, the consumption of alcohol was prohibited.  However, the state has a substantial Christian minority and, at the time Sharia was  adopted, the then governor, Mala Kachalla, had assured Christians that the Islamic law would apply only to Muslims. In some parts of Maiduguri, residents still drink beer openly.

Gunmen kill Rev David Usman and church secretary in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 7 June, a pastor and the assistant secretary of his church were shot dead in their church by gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The pastor, Rev. David Usman, was shot at the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), about 150 metres from Boko Haram’s former enclave, near the Railway Terminus.

Local sources said the gunmen arrived the area at about 7pm on a motorcycle. A church member said the assistant secretary had just concluded a meeting and was set to go home when the gunmen arrived and shot him.   The killers then reportedly ordered someone to phone the pastor and alert him that the church assistant secretary had just been shot. The report said the pastor, jolted by that call, ran down to the church premises only to be gunned down by the waiting killers.

The Regional Church Council Chairman, Rev. Bulus Azi, who confirmed the incident, said: “Somebody called him on phone that the church assistant secretary had been shot in the church. So he left his house and rushed to the church unknown to him that the gunmen were also waiting for him. He just walked into their hands and he was shot”.

The corpses of the two men have been deposited at the mortuary of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).

The Public Relations Officer of the Borno State Police Command, ASP Lawal Abdullahi, who confirmed the incident to newsmen, said Police had commenced investigations towards arresting the culprits, and had also intensified patrol of the area.

The Railway Terminus area was once a major centre of Boko Haram’s activities. The sect’s enclave, located west of the terminus, was demolished by government foces following Boko Haram’s July 2009 uprising in which over 800 people were killed.

Bomb blast inside church premises in Maiduguri, Borno State

Map of Nigeria highlighting Borno State

On 2 June, a bomb exploded at the Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church, opposite the Borno State Government Secretariat in Maiduguri, Borno State.

It could not be ascertained whether the explosion, which occurred at about 3 pm, was caused by a device thrown into the premises from the street or by one that had been planted inside and timed to detonate. But the blast destroyed the bishop’s office, uprooted an electric pole and tore off some cables behind the church’s fence.

Eye witnesses said about 50 members of the church, who had gathered for a prayer meeting, were within the premises when the incident occurred; but nobody was injured.

After this explosion and an earlier blast which wrecked a vaccine storehouse less than 24 hours earlier, the city seemed increasingly tense. Security personnel were also more visible, and traffic on major streets was slowed by security checks.

Explosion, blaze destroy major vaccine store in Maiduguri, Borno State

Map of Nigeria highlighting Borno State

On 1 June, an explosion occurred at the Disease Control Unit (Epidemiological Centre) of the Borno State Ministry of Health, in Maiduguri, Borno State. The blast instantly set off a fire that destroyed tens of thousands of doses of polio, measles and meningitis vaccines, and other private property worth millions of naira.

Details of the incident are yet contradictory. Some residents said they heard one explosion, others two.

It is also not clear whether the incident was an attack by members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, as local residents say, or an accident, as some police sources claim. No group has yet claimed responsibility.

One account said the building was attacked with explosives around 7.25 pm, while most local residents were huddled together in front of television sets, watching a friendly soccer match between Nigeria and Argentina which was massively followed by people all over the country. It further said the explosion was followed by gunshots, people running for safety, and then a huge fire from the warehouse which soon engulfed nearby stores.

Another account said some men came to the building around 7 pm, chased out an elderly man who was “guarding” the entrance, went in and planted explosives which went off and set the warehouse ablaze. The source said the fire soon spread to a shopping centre and a private house located behind the vaccine store, and also to three cars that were parked on the grounds around the building. One shop owner, Mohammed Mustapha, said he lost goods worth about N25 million.

However, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Malam Lawal Abdullahi, ruled out any attack or sabotage.

He told a newspaper reporter that: “It was purely a fire incident and the police have already commenced investigations into the cause. There was no life lost, but we are yet to quantify the value of the property lost”.

The Epidemiological Centre, which doubles as the warehouse for vaccines being used for the National Programme on Immunisation (NPI) in Borno State, is the biggest store for disease control resources in the state. Its destruction is a major setback to the Borno State Government’s programme against major child-killer diseases.

Bomb attack on military patrol team in Maiduguri, Borno State

Soldiers on patrol in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 30 May, an explosive device targeting a military patrol team went off in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

The Public Relations Officer of the 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, based in Maiduguri, Lt Abubakar Abdullahi, told newsmen that the army patrol team was attacked with an explosive device around 7.30 in the morning. He said the van in which the team was riding was “substantially damaged”, but that there were no deaths or even injuries.

He also reported that security forces had arrested three suspects in connection with the attack, and are trying to track down all others who may have been involved.

No group has claimed responsibility, but military and police authorities strongly suspect the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which has been involved in a series of shootings and bomb blasts in the state and beyond, was almost certainly responsible for the latest attack on the patrol team.

Abdullahi told AFP that: “The primary suspect is Boko Haram”.

Boko Haram attack kills at least 12 in Damboa, Borno State

Police station burnt in an earlier Boko Haram attack in Maiduguri

On 27 May, a band of Boko Haram militants staged an early morning attack against a police station, a police barracks and the First Bank’s branch office in Damboa, 80 kilometres south of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, killing at least 12 persons.

Police sources initially said the casualties were three police officers and two civilians, but later reported up to 12 people had been killed.

The Commissioner of Police in Borno State, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, who confirmed the incident, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that: “Today is a Black Friday to us, because we have just received information about an attack by some 70 suspected Boko Haram militants in Damboa area. The hoodlums attacked a police divisional station, police barracks and a commercial bank” using explosives, assault rifles and other weapons.

Mr Abubakar said more policemen had been deployed to Damboa and that he was personnally on his way to the town to assess the situation.

The Police Commissioner linked the Damboa attacks to the police successfully thwarting Boko Haram’s attempt to attack a church in the Kwanar Yobe area of Maiduguri, a few days earlier. He said after intercepting some of the fundamentalists who were trying to attack the Church, the police seized an AK-47 rifle, some motorbikes, GSM cell phones and other items from them.

“They were frustrated by the gallant efforts of the police, which prevented them from attacking the Church in Maiduguri”, he said, “So, they decided to launch another attack in a remote area”.

Reiterating the determination of the Borno State police command to confront Boko Haram and restore peace to the state, Abubakar vowed that those who carried out the Damboa attacks will be hunted down. Disclosing that many arrests had already been made over the incident, he added: “We will get them, sooner or later”.

Map of Nigeria highlighting Borno State, Boko Haram's stronghold

Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group, launched a major uprising in Borno and Bauchi States in July 2009, but was overrun by government security forces, with more than 800 persons killed. Since mid-2010, it has carried out serial attacks against policemen and soldiers, moderate Islamic clerics, local politicians and Christian preachers.

Although its activities have been confined largely to the far north-east of Nigeria, the group says it is fighting for the installation of an Islamic regime under Sharia law all over the country. Its extremist views and violent tactics are not shared by most other Muslims, even in the predominantly Muslim north of the country.

Prison officer car-bombed by suspected Boko Haram men in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 26 May, gunmen suspected to be members of the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, killed an un-named prison officer at a private school where he had gone to pick his children after school hours, in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The incident occurred around 1pm in front of the Innovative Private School at Bolori area of the city. Local sources said the prison warder had driven in his official car to the school along Baga road and was in the process of taking his children home, when the killers struck. Numbering about three, they arrived at the school on two motorcycles, after probably trailing him from his office. The officer had already picked up his three children, but his assailants ordered the kids out of the car.

Initial reports had said the attackers first shot him and then set the car and his body ablaze. But the Borno state prison comptroller, Usman Maina Kaina, along with some witnesses said the gunmen locked the officer inside his car, and then blew the car up with an explosive device. The blast sent many people in the area running for their dear lives, while the car went up in flames.

The Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Borno State Police Command, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Lawan Abdullahi, confirmed the incident to newsmen, repeating earlier calls to the public to be vigilant.

About four prison officials have been killed in Maiduguri this month (May 2011). Security authorities believe they were all killed by Boko Haram.

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