Niger Repub­lic group claims B/Haram links

Mil­i­tary says aware of cross-bor­der ac­tiv­ity

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Musa Ab­dul­lahi Kr­ishi & Ron­ald Mu­tum

An in­sur­gency group op­er­at­ing in Niger Repub­lic has claimed hav­ing links with Nigeria’s Boko Haram mil­i­tants from whom it re­ceives “huge” pay­ments for joint op­er­a­tions.

The Niger in­sur­gents told the BBC Hausa ra­dio yes­ter­day that they are based in parts of Diffa in the south-east­ern part of that coun­try, and that they rou­tinely of­fer help to Boko Haram in its cam­paign of vi­o­lence in Nigeria.

Boko Haram pays them “huge sums” in re­turn, they said.

Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties have said in the past that the Jama’atu Ah­lis Sun­nah Lid Da’awati Wal Ji­had does re­ceive sup­port from for­eign ter­ror groups, but this is the first time any such or­gan­i­sa­tion is pub­licly claim­ing work­ing with the sect.

The Niger group, whose name was not given, com­prises mostly youths of be­tween the ages of 17 and 23, who wear sin­glets, jeans and chains round their necks, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The young men are sec­ondary school stu­dents, who con­duct armed rob­beries es­pe­cially dur­ing mar­ket days in Diffa, which is on the bor­der with Nigeria.

They showed the BBC cor­re­spon­dent some ma­chetes, knives and other lo­cal weapons which they use in their rob­bery op­er­a­tions. But they said they do not use guns.

“What we do is to sit and drink tea, bear, drugs and mar­i­juana be­fore we go for op­er­a­tions and other in­sur­gent ac­tiv­i­ties,” one of them said.

“As a re­sult of our ac­tiv­i­ties, our par­ents and other people in our ar­eas don’t like us. We have re­la­tion­ship with Boko Haram. Five of us went, but two of them lost their lives (in Nigeria) and three are alive.

“Even this one you’re see­ing with us, it’s not up to a week that he re­turned. It’s all about money. The Boko Haram people have given us huge sums of money in the past, part of which we used in buy­ing these chairs, clothes and other things you’re see­ing here.”

An­other young man said: “All the things we do are be­cause we’re job­less; we’re do­ing this to get money.”

They also claimed that they are now giv­ing Boko Haram mem­bers in­for­ma­tion about Diffa and its sur­round­ings.

Gover­nor of the state of Diffa, Mr. Yakubu Su­mana Gawo, told the BBC that se­cu­rity per­son­nel are work­ing to en­sure ad­e­quate se­cu­rity in the state, but that the govern­ment was not aware of the ex­is­tence of any group of in­sur­gents.

“We don’t know about these groups, since they have not launched any at­tack yet. We won’t al­low any in­sur­gent group to op­er­ate here. But we’re call­ing on the people to give us in­for­ma­tion about any ter­ror­ist group to help us and the coun­try. God will­ing, se­cu­rity agents will go af­ter such groups,” he said.

How­ever, some cit­i­zens of Diffa who did not want to be named, con­firmed the ex­is­tence of in­sur­gents.

When con­tacted yes­ter­day, the Di­rec­tor of De­fence In­for­ma­tion, Ma­jor-Gen­eral Chris Oluko­lade, told Daily Trust: “We know they have been go­ing across the bor­der and are in­volved in ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties in Nigeria.”

He added that so many of them have been killed by se­cu­rity forces car­ry­ing out coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in the North-East.

“This only goes to con­firm what we have been say­ing about cross-bor­der in­volve­ment,” Ma­jor-Gen­eral Oluko­lade said.

In his re­ac­tion, Spe­cial Du­ties Min­is­ter Kabiru Tan­imu Tu­raki, who is also the chair­man of the pres­i­den­tial com­mit­tee on di­a­logue with Boko Haram, told the BBC he was not aware of the Niger Repub­lic group’s sup­port for Nige­rian in­sur­gents.

“I don’t have that in­for­ma­tion, but I won’t be sur­prised if that is the case, be­cause like I said, there are people whose ma­jor con­cern is to cause trou­ble so that they can ful­fill their de­sires,” he said.

“Even if there are such groups, God will take con­trol over them. Nigeria is a coun­try that is above any ter­ror­ist or trou­ble maker. We are a coun­try that be­lieves in God, and we know He won’t for­sake us,” he added.

On re­ported Boko Haram’s links with So­ma­lia’s Al-Shabab group, Tu­raki said: “As a min­is­ter and head of the pres­i­den­tial com­mit­tee on di­a­logue with the group, I am not aware of this. But as I know, some ter­ror­ist groups around the world are try­ing to cause trou­ble in dif­fer­ent coun­tries; I won’t be sur­prised if there is any joint ef­fort among them.

“Again, I can’t think a news­pa­per will come out with such in­for­ma­tion with­out hav­ing any good rea­son. But I don’t have any in­for­ma­tion of any re­la­tion­ship be­tween them (Boko Haram) and Al-Shabab.”

Speak­ing on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shakau’s claims that the sect is now in Abuja, Tu­raki said the sect’s mem­bers are like any other hu­man be­ing who could re­side in any part of the coun­try with­out govern­ment knowl­edge.

“It’s not sur­pris­ing, be­cause what we’ve been telling people all the time is that the Boko Haram mem­bers are like ev­ery other per­son. The way they op­er­ate, they are dif­fer­ent from other re­li­gious groups since you can’t just see some­one with kaf­tan and say they’re the ones. They have dif­fer­ent ways of dress­ing, so I won’t be sur­prised if they’re in Abuja just the way they’re in other places,” he said.

Tu­raki also said his com­mit­tee’s di­a­logue with the Boko Haram sect has been fruit­ful, though he would not make pub­lic their de­mands as the di­a­logue is on­go­ing.

“Our di­a­logue with them is on­go­ing. We have dis­cussed with some of their mem­bers, and even the com­mit­tee be­fore this one did same. But this com­mit­tee has dis­cussed with many of them, and so far so good, by God’s grace and with prayers from Nige­ri­ans, we shall over­come all these chal­lenges,” Tu­raki said.

PHOTO NAN

Se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives screen­ing civil ser­vants as they re­sume for work at the Federal Sec­re­tariat af­ter the Easter hol­i­day in Abuja yes­ter­day.

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