Nigeria: al-Qaeda presence in Nigeria has been kept under wraps

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To prove their merit in the Boko Haram affair that led to widespread violence in the northeastern states of Nigeria, the federal security services have decided to speak out, revealing a number of sensitive national security issues that border a very delicate fissure between Nigeria’s monotheist religions. According to the intelligence reports, the political power was informed in 2007 that many members of the religious sect were being trained at GSPC [the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat] camps in Algeria. GSPC is also known as AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb]

Several members of the Boko Haram group, which was recently crushed by the Nigerian army causing more than 700 deaths, had been “trained” in southern Algeria over the past three years within the ranks of the GSPC. The Nation, a local newspaper, indicated that the State Security Service of Nigeria (SSS) in a report submitted to top government officials in 2007 had identified and classified the Boko Haram sect as a “murderous religious group.” According to the newspaper, a highly credible government source confirmed that one of the conclusions made by the SSS was that many of the group’s members had undergone training in Algeria. Strong links between Boko Haram and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat had been identified.

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The information also revealed that Khaled Bernaoui, an Algerian national, had been identified as the “sponsor” of the group. The information released by the intelligence services of Nigeria are clearly intended to demonstrate that they (SSS) had not failed its core duty of identifying the Boko Haram’s potential threat and alerting the political authority. The question, therefore, is the bloody and expeditious manner in which the Nigerian army settled the case of the local “Taliban”. By revealing the existence of the two-year old report, the Nigerian security services seek to question the political will. According to the information released by The Nation, the Algerian GSPC recruited the first group of Boko Haram members in 2006. The same source also revealed that the nephew of a former governor of a northeastern state, among others, was deeply involved in the coordination of the murderous group. A former president of the local government of the State of Niger was also named. Their plan was to “resist the capitalist ideology”, “plot to take over power” and also to carry out suicide attacks in major cities in accordance with the Iraqi model. Six bomb experts were trained on site in Borno state, whilst most of the weapons and ammunition are presumed to have been smuggled into the Nigeria from Afghanistan.

“This is not a failure of intelligence … “

According to the SSS, “the group was linked to Al Qaeda through some of its members including Barah Abdul and Mohamed Al-Amin who were in Afghanistan and have strong links with some Al Qaeda leaders. The source concluded that, no one can claim that the religious strife was as a result of an intelligence failure. When asked why the dealings of Boko Haram leader, Mohamed Yusuf, were not stopped in time before it posed a threat to national security, it was argued that the SSS had arrested thirty members of the group after investigation. “Sixteen of them, including their leader Mohammed Yusuf,” according to the source were brought before a Federal High Court in Abuja. Mohamed Yusuf obtained bail. Knowing that he would respond with violence, all the SSS security reports concerning his activities were made available to the national Police Force.

According the same source, inroads made by the SSS were thwarted by Muslim leaders who attacked the Director General of State Security Service, Mr. Afakirya Gadzama, accusing him of “trying to humiliate Islam because he is a Christian. “To allay the fears of religious prejudices”, the SSS chief organised a meeting between some top Muslim leaders and some of the arrested members of Boko Haram. “They have come to accept the findings of the security services” and this has helped calm things down because Muslim leaders have now “realized that the threats were real.” The fighting that took place in north-eastern parts of Nigeria between security forces and the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, meaning “Western education is sin,” left over 700 people dead.

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