Niger Republic group claims B/Haram links
Military says aware of cross-border activity
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.
Security operatives screening civil servants as they resume for work at the Federal Secretariat after the Easter holiday in Abuja yesterday.