Suicide bombers: Al-Qaeda, Somali militants launch massive recruitment drive in Nigeria

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Toyosi Ogunseye

Indications have emerged that a fundamentalist group, Al-Qaeda, and Somali militants have begun a massive recruitment drive of youngsters as suicide bombers in Nigeria.

This is coming on the heels of increased fears of more bomb explosions and threats in different parts of the country.

The closest a Nigerian has been linked to suicide bombing was on December 25, 2009 when Umar Abdulmutallab, was arrested in the United States with high explosives allegedly sewn into his underwear on a Detroit bound aircraft.

He reportedly tried to detonate the explosives by injecting chemicals into them, before being over-powered by some passengers and crew.

The 25-year-old lad is currently in detention in the state of Michigan, after being indicted by a US grand jury on a six-count charge, including the attempted murder of the plane’s 290 passengers and crew.

Shortly after the incident, Abdulmutallab was labelled a ‘suicide bomber,’ who had links to the al-Qaeda and had allegedly received his explosives in Yemen.

Meanwhile, intelligence reports indicate that more youths like Abdulmutallab abound in Nigeria and they have been contacted to be suicide bombers by the al-Qaeda and the Al-Shabaa- a fundamentalist group in Somalia.

Already, these groups reportedly have serious links with the Boko Haram sect in the North and have started spreading the gospel of suicide bombing and convincing the youths of the ‘benefits’ of embracing the act.

The Borno State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed, had last month said some members of the Boko Haram sect smuggled into the country sophisticated weapons like heavy rocket launchers, AK 47 rifles, grenades and other lethal explosives deployed in the construction of bombs from neighbouring countries.

A top police source who craved anonymity because of its sensitive nature, said security reports indicated that the next stage of terrorism apart from the recent bomb explosions that had rocked the nation would be the issue of suicide bombers.

He said, “People should not be surprised if we start witnessing the occurrence of suicide bombers in Nigeria. We have reports that they have started recruiting agents and convincing them that they would go to heaven if they plant explosives on their bodies. Some of the youths are also being promised huge amounts of money if they accept to go ahead with the act.”

Again, the Head of the Economic Desk of the Nigerian Embassy in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia and Ambassador designate, Ahmed Magaji, had last week warned that the ongoing crisis in Yemen posed a great danger to the national security of Nigeria.

According to him, al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist elements in Yemen are using the opportunity of the crisis to send their trained elements to destablilise Nigeria.

Magaji, who spoke during the Senate committee on Foreign affairs ambassadorial screening, acknowledged the large presence of Nigerians in the Middle East country and said some of them were being trained by the al-Qaeda.

The ambassador told a bewildered Senate that the al-Qaeda had specifically mentioned Nigeria as a country that was ripe for fundamentalists operations and that events in the Middle East and Libya shouldn’t be treated with kid gloves.

Magaji added that the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, during a meeting with Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, last October threatened to use Nigeria’s internal weakness to destabilise the country.

Also, a senior official of the Federal Bureau of Investigations Academy, Quantico, US, confirmed the fears of Magaji and other security chiefs. The FBI boss said the message of Osama Bin Laden, the Al-qaeda leader had spread rapidly in the country.

He said, “It is not the al-Qaeda alone that is propagating the gospel of Osama. The Al-Shabaab too is actively involved and they are winning disciples’ every day especially in the northern part of Nigeria.”

The FBI boss further said that the number of people being recruited by the terrorists groups was worrisome and that this had made the increase in the number of direct flights from Nigeria to the US and the United Kingdom more perilous.

He added, “It is not a Nigerian issue alone, it is also a global issue because of the ease of penetration that terrorists groups have in Nigeria. We are worried about the state of security at the airports because these youths that are recruited can also be used to take explosives outside the country. Passengers travelling outside the country are not well screened and sometimes the scanners don’t function properly when there is a power outage.”

But the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Shola Amore, said if suicide bombers existed in the country, the intelligence unit of the force would catch up with them.

He said, “We have not heard about suicide bombers in the country. You know we have arrested so many members of the Boko Haram sect, but we are yet to be confronted with a case of suicide bombing. We have not seen a situation like that in Nigeria. But if it is true that the al-Qaeda and terrorists in Somalia are recruiting Nigerian youths, our intelligence will catch up with them.”

In a related development, SUNDAY PUNCH has gathered that the FBI approached the Federal Government on the need to train security agencies on detection of bombs, detonation of explosives, and how to make Improvised Explosive Devices.

Already, our correspondent learnt that the training had taken place and representatives of the Nigeria Police Force’s anti-bomb squad unit, Nigeria Immigration Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the State Security Service attended the seminar.

Meanwhile, some top officials of the US Transportation Security Administration have arrived in Nigeria to carry out a special security and safety audit of the Murtala Muhammmed International Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Apart from examining the airports’ level of compliance and safety regulations, the team is also to examine three airlines — Delta Airlines, Arik Air and United Airlines that — are operating direct flights between Nigeria and the US.


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