KANO, (AFP) – The Nigerian Joint Military Task Force (JTF) on Tuesday said it had uncovered a plot by Boko Haram Islamists to carry out “massive attacks” during an upcoming Muslim festival with the help of foreign mercenaries.
A spokesman said the insurgents were planning to strike in an embattled northeastern state during Eid-El-Kabir, typically called Sallah in Nigeria, which this year falls on October 25 and 26.
“Information available to the Joint Task Force indicates that the Boko Haram terrorists are planning to launch massive attacks on military and civilian targets in Borno state before, during and after the forthcoming Sallah celebrations,” Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said in a statement.
Violence linked to Islamist group Boko Haram’s insurgency in northern and central Nigeria, including killings by security forces, is believed to have left more than 2,800 people dead since 2009.
Most of the violence has been in Borno state, where Boko Haram has been based.
“The terrorists have invited foreign mercenaries to assist them in the anticipated attacks,” Sagir said, but declined to comment on the nationalities of the alleged foreign fighters.
“We know where they are coming from but we don’t want to disclose that because we don’t want to pre-empt our security arrangement to tackle them”.
The security forces have frequently exaggerated their success in cracking down on Boko Haram and it was impossible to verify their claims on Tuesday.
Boko Haram members are believed to have sought training in northern Mali from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its allies. There has been intense speculation over whether other links have been formed with foreign groups.
Nigeria’s military has claimed that insurgents from neighbouring Chad have previously fought alongside Boko Haram. Some security analysts say that Boko Haram regularly purchases weapons from markets in Chad and Niger.
The group has in the past carried out deadly attacks during Christian and Muslim holidays.