WAR ON TERROR: Victory against Boko Haram in sight?
By Jide Ajani
•How spokesman was tracked and killed •Islamist group fights back
•Sect’s alleged accountant arrested with N4.5m cash in Zaria
This is an exclusive report of how men of the Department of State Service, DSS, and the Joint Task Force, JTF, tracked and killed Abu Qaqa, the dreaded spokesman of the Jamaatu Ahlil Sunna Lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, last Monday, in a suburb of Kano State, North West Nigeria.
Just two days later, the JTF arrested a man alleged to be the sect’s book keeper while in transit to make some money transfers. He was carrying N4.5 million. But it is also the story of how the sect fought back, killing more people to prove that it would not go away just like that.
‘THE ACCOUNTANT’ comes to town
The commuters in the bus did not know they were traveling in the company of a high-prize suspect. They also did not know that the suspect was carrying N4.5million in cash. Perhaps had there been a thief with premonition of what the suspect was carrying, the latter may not have made it to the JTF road block. But the money was neatly packed in a sack and the suspect looked just like the commuter sitting next to you in an inter state commuter bus.
At the road block, the suspect did not betray any emotions. The bus was just about entering Zaria from Kano. Once the bus was stopped, all the passengers on board were requested to disembark. The JTF men knew their suspect having received information about his mode of dressing, the nature of the bag he was carrying, his height and other descriptive signs.
The suspect had moved all the way from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital hours earlier. His first port of call was said to be Kano. Here, he was said to have entered a bank (names withheld) and made some money transfers to quite a number of persons and destinations. These transfers aroused the curiosity of the bank officials. He was in the company of another person.
Between the time the bank officials made contact with the police and men of the JTF and a frenzied search commenced, the man alleged to be ‘THE ACCOUNTANT’ of the dreaded the Jamaatu Ahlil Sunna Lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, had left Kano; but his counterpart, “a fairly younger person”, according to a JTF source, “was apprehended and brought in for questioning. It was during intense interrogation that the man volunteered the information that his friend was actually ‘THE ACCOUNTANT’ of Boko Haram”.
Sunday Vanguard was informed by sources in Kano, Zaria and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, that the man in the custody of the JTF was the one who provided information about the description of his counterpart. It was these pieces of information that the JTF men in Zaria relied on to intercept the alleged ‘ACCOUNTANT’
When the vehicle was stopped at the road block, the commuters did not have any inkling of what was to happen next. “Everybody come down”, the JTF officer’s voice thundered.
This had become a normal exercise for most commuters traveling in most parts of the affected areas of the North where Boko Haram had shown its presence. The JTF men on duty identified their man and reached for him once he alighted. On him was N4.5million in cash.
He was promptly arrested and taken away. He is presently in detention and said to be “making useful statements”, a source said.
Every attempt by Sunday Vanguard to get the name of the alleged ‘ACCOUNTANT’ failed. Even a commitment to act strictly confidentially was rebuffed. The name of the bank where the first money transfers were made in Kano and where the transfers were sent was not disclosed by the authorities. “We can not provide those details as the bank may become a target”, the source said.
The arrest was carried out mid-day last Wednesday.
THE KILLING OF QAQA
It may never be known whether he would have done it. For Abu Qaqa, had he known that the care for his wife would lead to his death, the decision to head back to Kano last Monday may have been shelved.
Information pieced together from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, headquarters of the Department of State Service, DSS, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, also in Abuja, and Kano, suggest that Abu Qaqa likely took off from Gombe State.
Once information filtered in early that the group’s spokesman had been killed, the mood inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa was one of ecstasy.
Qaqa, who had been elusive from the security agents, headed for Kano from Gombe with the intention of getting a “needed medical help for the wife”, a very dependable security source volunteered.
Unknown to Qaqa – just like most of the Boko Haram senior commanders – his movement was always being tracked. Mind you, earlier in the year when the DSS made some strategic arrests of some senior members of the sect, it was revealed that some super high-tech tracking devices purchased by the agency had made the tracking and arrests of some of the alleged terror suspects possible.
It was these same devices – even more sophisticated ones recently acquired – that aided the Department in last week’s successful operation. Qaqa, his wife and children, along with some members of the sect, proceeded from Gombe to Kano, through Jigawa.
The Boko Haram’s spokesman’s wife needed medical attention and he believed that it was only in Kano that he could get the best of medical attention.
All attempts by Sunday Vanguard to ascertain the exact form of medical attention that Qaqa’s wife needed, and for which he had to make the long distance movement from Gombe to Kano, proved abortive. And because the JTF operatives were tracking him, they knew exactly where to lay ambush. At Mariri, on the outskirts of Kano, the JTF operatives waited patiently.
Relying on the tracking signals, they sighted the vehicle in which Qaqa and his family were traveling and opened fire. It was a risky and daring operation. Some other reports made claims which suggested that Qaqa was not the only adult male in the vehicle; that there were at least two other men who were said to be bodyguards.
The operatives, it was revealed, carefully evacuated the woman and the children in the car, while at the same time being mindful of any possibility of a suicide bombing attempt.
“The operatives were very careful in taking possession of the woman and the children because she may have been wearing a suicide vest”, a source said.
The woman was discovered to be Qaqa’s wife. And whereas she reportedly claimed that she was merely being escorted to Kano, “it was later established that the man killed in the vehicle was the husband and the trace equally established that he was our man”, the source disclosed. This happened last Monday morning.
It was gathered that it was during interrogation that the wife made some disclosures abouty locations that would later prove to be very useful to security operatives.
Therefore, a team of the Joint Task Force, JTF, stormed the hideout of the Boko Haram sect in Hotoro area of Kano municipality, Monday night, where one of the commanders of the group was killed, while two other members were arrested during the combat operation.
Sunday Vanguard was told that the military action followed intelligence report indicating the presence of high profile sect members, who had been on the wanted list of security agents in the area.
Our source further revealed that the daylight operation involving several infantry and counter-terrorism officers was swift and ended within half an hour.
Sources, however, refused to divulge the identity of the “top commander” killed during the operation and those taken into custody, pointing out that “what matters at the moment is the success recorded during the military action”.
Residents were apprehensive when a military helicopter was seen hovering the skyline of the city indicating a major military operation. But that was not all.
THE SAFE HOUSES
Sources in Abuja disclosed that the arrest of some commanders of Boko Haram sect during the Hotoro operation also yielded positive intelligence gathering results. It was through the confessions of the sect commanders arrested that the JTF men got to know of the safe houses.
Two locations – poles apart and at extreme ends – were revealed as places where the sect’s safe houses were domiciled. One was located at Rimi-Kebe. The other, at Rijiyar’Zaki. Both houses reportedly belonged to Qaqa.
The house at Rimi-Kebe was described by a source as very “loaded”. It was there that a cache of communications equipment comprising laptops, computer Central Processing Units, CPS, computer monitors, telephone handsets and the like were recovered.
A statement by the spokesman of the JTF in Kano, Lt. Ikediche Iweha, titled, “Update on capture of Boko Haram terrorists on September 17, 2012, said, “Following further operation in the suspects heavily wired IED hideout, the following items were recovered: Two AK 47 rifles, two pump action rifles, one berretta rifle, one smoke discharger, 433 rounds of 7.62 Nato ammunition, 80 rounds of 7.62 special ammunition, 2 AK 47 magazines, 36 prepared IEDs, 13 laptops, two motorcycles, four printers, one photocopier, one 33 slots zenith disc writer, one TG 3900Ez generator set, religious books, large quantity of CD plates, two decoders, two satellite dish, one 21′’ television set, one DVD player, 2 bags of urea fertilizer, one elite dry cell 12v battery, one blue gate UPS, one stabilizer, 10 hand held Motorola radios and 5 battery chargers.”
The JTF further said, “This latest encounter with the terrorist group has foiled its planned attack to wreak havoc on the good people of Kano State. It has equally further depleted the capacity of the terrorist group to operate. The JTF would like to use this medium to reiterate its resolve to continue to work assiduously towards the protection of lives and property in the state. The relative peace which Kano enjoys today can be attributed to the collective effort and prayers of the good people of Kano State.”
The JTF appealed to the general public to continue to volunteer information while assuring utmost confidentiality in dealing with such information.
“Residents are therefore enjoined to go about their normal lawful business activity without any fear as security agents are ready and will respond swiftly to any treat to life and property in any part of the state,” it added.
But the victory of the task force, however, came on a day some terrorists, alleged to be Boko Haram members, killed the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Borno State, Mr Zannah Mallam Gana, and a former Comptroller General of the Nigerian Prisons, Alhaji Ibrahim Jarma Katagun, in Bauchi.
QAQA WITH MANY LIVES
But this would not be the first time that Qaqa would be reported to have been apprehended by security agents. There were indications in mid-April, this year, via speculations, that the group may have silenced its self-styled spokesman and replacement for the arrested Abu Qaqa. Security sources disclosed that “Abu Qaqa” -11 may have been killed on the orders of the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
The leader of the sect came out to deny this vehemently. He may have been proved right with the killing of another top commander of the sect who was, last week, identified as the real Abu Qaqa.
The report, which was denied earlier, speculated that a certain Mohammed Anwal Kontagora, who hailed from Kontagora, Niger State, may have also metamorphosed into and was also known as Abu Dardaa, Mohammed Shuaibu, Mohammed Bello, Abu Tiamiya and Abdulrahman Abdullahi.
He was reportedly arrested in January this year. He reportedly took the name Abu Qaqa in February after the original Abu Qaqa was alleged to have been arrested.
Sources familiar with terrorists’ propaganda machinery however made Sunday Vanguard to understand that the sect may have mastered the art of deception by repeatedly using the generic name Abu Qaqa for its spokes person.
“Don’t be surprised if tomorrow the sect comes out to deny that Abu Qaqa was killed; or when another statement is issued by the sect with another Abu Qaqa signing the statement. It is part of the mind games that the sect appears to have mastered. But, increasingly, the security agencies are also doing their bit to contain the dastardly acts of the sect”, one of the sources explained.
A very dependable intelligence source whom Sunday Vanguard approached with a view to having access into the inner workings of the JTF simply said “this is not the time to begin to discuss such matters”.
The very senior intelligence source said: “When we are satisfied with the level of containment, then we can begin to write the history of who did what, where, when and how. But, for now, all I can tell you is that the JTF is made up of men of the DSS and military men.
The DSS operatives provide the Intel after a recon and even, in most cases, make the initial movement into areas of engagement with the military providing the necessary back up – although there are times when the military go solo after being provided with Intel from the men of the DSS”.