Source: This Day Live
United Nations House bombing
Members of Boko Haram have received training from groups affiliated to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Algeria, according to a recent internal Nigerian intelligence report quoted by a United States’ newspaper, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), yesterday.
And in Abuja, also yesterday, the State Security Service (SSS) finally spoke on last week’s United Nations House bombing and confirmed that the suicide bomber had a link with al-Qaeda.
The security agency released the images of two suspects arrested in connection with the bombing and declared a third person wanted, while also disclosing that the nation’s intelligence community got information nine days ahead of the UN House bombing.
In a press release, SSS spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, said on August 18, 2011, “precise intelligence was obtained by this Service that some Boko Haram elements were on a mission to attack unspecified targets in Abuja in an ash-coloured Toyota Camry vehicle with registration number AA539GBL.
“On 21st August, 2011 about 1300 hours a joint operations by all security services led to the arrest of two (2) notorious leaders of the Boko Haram extremist sect, namely, Babagana Ismail KWALJIMA (a.k.a Abu SUMMAYA) [and] Babagana MALI (a.k.a Bulama)”.
Ogar said following their arrests, security was further beefed up in Abuja and its environs.
“Meanwhile the suspects have made valuable statements and are being held at a military facility,” she said, adding that investigation had revealed that one Mamman Nur, “a notorious Boko Haram element with Al-Qaeda links who returned recently from Somalia, working in concert with the two (2) suspects masterminded the attack on the United Nations (UN) building in Abuja”.
She said further investigation “has also revealed that the car used for the attack was a Honda car with Kano State registration number AV38NSR. It was purchased on 3rd September, 2002 and registered on 3rd December, 2002. The vehicle identification number is 1HGCBA7400A100748, Engine number, F22A72000540”.
SSS implored all Nigerians to be more security conscious and vigilant, while urging the general public to cooperate with security agencies by providing useful information that could lead to the arrest of Nur who is declared wanted.
Ogar said any person with useful information which could lead to the arrest of the suspect and other accomplices “should report to the nearest police station, military formations or any other security agency”.
The WSJ reported that the intelligence on the training of Boko Haram fighters in Afghanistan and Algeria was submitted to senior government officials in June. That marked roughly the beginning of a string of recent attacks, highlighted by the bombing of Police Headquarters in Abuja.
The June report, which was reviewed by WSJ, did not appear to contain specific intelligence on future attacks but the fact that bombings have been going on since then is indicative of “poor coordination and corruption” within the intelligence ranks.
WSJ sources pointed in particular to a finding in the report that four of the five top members of Boko Haram have been in police custody at least once in recent years but have been released without any reasons given for the releases.
The report, according to WSJ, presented a more detailed picture of foreign terror links than the government had acknowledged, portraying Boko Haram as a group with Jihadist aspirations and more substantial international connections than previously believed.
It said group members began travelling abroad for weapons training as early as 2002, with a trip that included several members heading to Mauritania.
In 2007, the report said, members of Boko Haram travelled to Afghanistan to receive training in the making of improvised explosive devices or IEDs, and in suicide-bombing techniques. The report named a man from Nigeria’s Adamawa State it said « led a group of members to Afghanistan for training on IEDs and on their return they imparted their knowledge to others », according to WSJ.
An undercover security official from the North confirmed to WSJ that Boko Haram members had received training in Afghanistan.
« They usually fly there from neighbouring countries, like Niger or Chad, » the official told the newspaper. The report also said Boko Haram members received combat and bomb-making training in Mauritania and in Algeria with members of al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Algeria-based AQIM has claimed credit for several killings and kidnappings of foreigners in West Africa, including a Friday suicide bombing of an Algerian military academy that killed 18 people. The group still has at least four French hostages kidnapped last September in Mali.
A US official said it was unlikely that Boko Haram was active enough before 2009 to send people in considerable numbers to train elsewhere, the WSJ report said. But by 2009, Boko Haram made contacts and established relationships with members of AQIM. In 2010, they began training alongside elements of AQIM in northern Mali.
« Within the last year, they’ve established more contacts and training opportunities with AQIM, » said the US official quoted by WSJ. « What we’re seeing now is probably the result of the additional radicalisation of their viewpoints and the training. »
The official said Boko Haram was estimated to contain a few hundred members.
By Ike Abonyi