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THE HUNT FOR BOKO HARAM MEMBERS: Tracking an unknown enemy

*The story of a manhunt

This is an exclusive report on the hunt for members of the now dreaded Ahlan Sunnah Lid Da’waati wal Jihad Yaanaa (brothers), popularly known as the Boko Haram sect and how security agencies are going about their job.  The report also reveals the engagement between former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and the Directorate of State Security, SSS, and the meeting between the former and President Goodluck Jonathan, last week.  It is revealing and explosive.

By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor

It was always going to be a risky business. The hunt for members of Boko Haram.

But it was only a matter of time before one, in a long series of meetings, would hold.  The first did last Tuesday.  The second, on Wednesday!

Firstly, there was a meeting between former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and the Directorate of State Security, SSS; and the other between the former and President Goodluck Jonathan.  The meeting:

ROAD TO A FAMOUS MEETING
Sunday Vanguard has been able to establish that the meeting between the former governor and the SSS on Tuesday, between 9:40 am and 4pm was not fortuitous. It was planned.

In fact, the road for Tuesday’s meeting was paved during penultimate week’s meeting of security chiefs and members of the senate.  At that meeting, which was held behind closed doors, witnessed some very instructive revelations.

One of the high points of the meeting of that day was the very strong suggestions made by legislators from Borno State, the centre of the carnage that is being wrought by members of the Boko Haram sect.  The legislators suggested that it would not be out of place for the security agencies to call those who matter in Borno State to provide very useful information on what was going on in the state.  That was part of the reasons why the former governor became a guest of the SSS.

The report of the interrogation, Sunday Vanguard learnt, was sent to President Jonathan.  Therefore, when Sheriff went to Aso Rock

Presidential Villa the next day, Wednesday, it was a necessary follow up to Tuesday’s meeting.  It was about making Sheriff explain what went wrong and how matters got to this head.  Although Sherif denied ever setting up Boko Haram, insisting that the group had been in existence before he became governor, Sunday Vanguard learnt that “President Jonathan had a frank talk with the governor”. Back to the meeting of the security chiefs and senators!  Sunday Vanguard was told that the security chiefs presented a brief on the evolution of the sect. The brief was very, very revealing.

A CONVOLUTED EVOLUTION
Sunday Vanguard got snippets of the brief. Born on January 29, 1970, Mohammed Yusuf, partnered with another long standing friend.  His name was Mohammed Ali (not the former World Heavy weight Boxing Champion).  Ali was said to be very intelligent and was a man with means.

And whereas Yusuf had four wives and 12 children, a number that is indeed enough to begin a crusade, Ali was the actual brain and strategist of the sect. In fact, when sometime in 2003, Yusuf was reportedly diagnosed with tuberculosis, he travelled out for treatment.

Upon travelling, Ali took charge of the group’s activities. Yusuf was said to have been out of the country for between three to four years.

As if Ali had dedicated his life to what is now the struggle, Sunday Vanguard was made to believe that he was offered a scholarship sometime ago to study in Saudi Arabia, but he refused the offer.

File photo: Suspected Boko Haram members after their arrest.

While Yusuf was out, Ali set up a base in Kanamma, Yobe State from where the then seeming rag tag followers of the brotherhood operated.

Acting on a tip off, the security agencies invaded the camp and flushed out the members who scattered.

But they only scattered; the group refused to disband.  In deed, it waxed stronger by attracting more members.

In the absence of Yusuf, the group moved from then camp and headed northwards, towards Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, and set up a new camp.

Although Sunday Vanguard could not establish the exact year, there was evidence, according to security sources, to suggest that the group sent some eight persons to Algeria in North Africa to go and learn how to make Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs.

From all indications, those they sent out learnt well. They perfected the art of making IEDs. At least, the evidence of that is the spate of bombings that the group has caused to happen in just about seven months, starting from December last year. But Ali, according to reports, was to meet an untimely death. He was said to have been ambushed by a local vigilante in Borno State and killed. With the passing away of Ali, Yusuf took full charge and vowed to avenge the death of his soul mate. But even before he could take full charge, the security agencies came calling again.

During a procession, the Police attacked members of the sect.

Therefore, when the sect decided to re-group and launch, it was with a vengeance.

COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES
Even before the death of Ali, Boko Haram members had been involved in dastardly incidents in Yobe in 2003 and in Kano in 2004. In April 2007, 10 policemen and a divisional commander’s wife were killed in an attack on the police headquarters in Kano.

On 13th November 2008, Muhammed Yusuf was arrested following an attack on a police station in Maiduguri, in which, seventeen of his followers were killed. On 20th January 2009, he was granted bail by a High Court judge in Abuja. This was to be an error.

What eventually led to the present situation  actually began in Bauchi State on July 26, 2009 when several hundred Boko Haram adherents launched an attack on the Dutsen Tanshi police station. This attack failed, with reports of at least fifty people being killed. During the course of the next four days after that, the group carried out further attacks, with gun battles between members of the sect and the police being reported throughout Bauchi, Kano, Yobe and Borno States. The worst of the violence occurred in the city of Maiduguri, where the group had again relocated from its Yobe base.

But again on October 7, 2010, the members stormed a federal prison in Bauchi and set free hundreds of their members as well as other inmates and threatened reprisals against those they accused of persecuting their members. Obviously, the military did not defeat Boko Haram last year when a five-day long clash ended with the alleged extrajudicial execution, in police custody, of Ustaz Yusuf.

Although scores of the militants were killed or rounded up, several also escaped, simply melting into surrounding environs to unleash terror.

WHY DIALOGUE DOES NOT MEAN SURRENDER
Sunday Vanguard has gathered that the so called carrot and stick approach of the Federal Government being put forward as a first step to arresting the wave of violence should not be seen as a surrender to brigandage.

For instance, a source told Sunday Vanguard that when the SSS came out to say it was not going to prosecute the members of the sect that had already been arrested, it did not mean that the arrested suspects would be unleashed on the nation again.

To be candid, not a few people have called on the Federal Government to ensure that in its bid to resolve the mounting tension in the land, it should not compromise the sanctity of the laws of the land.

It is exactly for this reason, a security source told Sunday Vanguard, “that we need to be careful because this is a risky business.  Those who have been arrested are being interrogated and they are making useful statements.  You know, we do not want an escalation of the situation.  When you begin to publicise the successes recorded so far it creates another problem of its own. But the government is working and we are having results.  Just last week, we arrested some more leaders of the group”

Sunday Vanguard also learnt that even across the border to the North, collaboration is going on with a view to arresting some members of the sect who fled to Niger.

But as if to placate the group, seven officers of the Maiduguri police command, CSP J. B Abang, ACP Akeera, CSP Mohammed Ahmadu, ACP Mada Buba, Sgt Adamu Gado, PC Anthony Samuel and PC Linus Luka, were on Wednesday, dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja, following their alleged complicity in the extra judicial execution of the leader of the sect, Yusuf, in 2009. (See details in ABUJA BULLETIN)
They are facing trial over allegations bordering on acts of terrorism and murder.

The Federal Government which initiated their prosecution last week alleged that they unlawfuly killed the apprehended leader of the Boko Haram sect, Yusuf, and some of his followers in cold blood, stressing that their action amounted to an offence under section 315 of the Criminal Code.

It would be recalled that Yusuf, his father in law Baa Fugu and an alleged financier of the group, Buji Foi, were on July 30, 2009, murdered inside a police station in Maiduguri, shortly after they were captured alive and handed over to the police command by team of military personnel who were drafted to the state to quell a crisis that bedevilled the town two years ago. But a fresh problem is emerging. The joint task force that was sent to Borno State to maintain law and order and sniff out sect members is now alleged to be creating a fresh problem of its own.

The members of the task force are being accused of adding to the woes of the people of the state with their seeming overbearing handling of their responsibilities.

That was why a Committee of Borno Elders and Leaders of Thought called on President Goodluck Jonathan, to as a matter of urgency withdraw all soldiers from the streets of Maiduguri.  They argued that the soldiers have failed to address the security situation perpetrated by the Islamic sect, but rather, they have succeeded in burning down houses and cars, killing innocent people and harassing passers-by since their deployment to the state.

The Elders then called on the members of the sect to have a re-think because of the suffering of Muslims.  The elders also counselled that the sect members should seek alternative ways of pushing their demand.

But the JTF, in a statement, signed by Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, the Operations Commander, put a lie to the claims by the elders that the soldiers have become a problem.

The University of Maiduguri has been closed idefinitely until peace returns to the state.  Spokesman for the University, Ahmed Mohammed, told newsmen that the institution can no longer guarantee the safety of its students and if anything happens to the students, the University will be held responsible.

As a result of that, some state governments have started evacuating their indigenes from Borno State.

Exploits in wanton destruction

By  Anthonia Onwuka

Boko Haram has, no doubt, demonstrated its capacity to inflict pain on the people of some northern states. The innocent citizens of Maiduguri, Borno State, have been the worst hit.  Here are a few of the group’s recent exploits in the destruction of lives and property, as well as a long list of earlier incidents.

*On May 30, this year, suspected members of the sect shot dead Abba Anas Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, the younger brother of the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai EL-Kanemi.
*In March, a renowned Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Ibrahim Gomari, amongst other religious scholars, was also shot by the sect members in front of his Mosque in Gomari Airport ward.

*On Sunday, July 3, 2011, Islamic sect, Bokb Haram, killed five persons including Mallam Mustafa Baale, a prominent leader of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP and injuring 10 others at a bar close to a police barracks in Maiduguri, Borno State capital. The group had on Saturday shot and killed seven persons in Umarai area of the state capital.

*Monday, July 4, 2011, Boko Haram scare grounded Abuja to a halt as military security check points were mounted, following fears of possible attack on the residents by members of the sect. This caused serious traffic congestion, forcing commuters to trek long distance while some returned home.

On Tuesday, July 5, 2011, in another fresh assault, the group caused the killing of seven persons in separate attacks in Maiuguri, Borno State. Those killed included two policemen, a soldier, an assistant superintendent of customs (ASC11) and three civilians.

*Wednesday, July 6, 2011, the group set off a bomb on one of the patrol teams of the Joint Military Task Force on Operation Restore Order, JTORO, in the new prison area in Maiduguri in the process killing seven soldiers.

*In the last three weeks, dozens have lost their lives in the hands of members of the sect but the following were earlier cases of killings and destruction:

*In January 2010, the group struck again in Borno State, killing four people in Maiduguri metropolis.

*In September of that year, Boko Haram Islamists freed over 700 inmates from a prison in Bauchi State and torched the prison.

*December 2010, the Boko Haram extremists introduced the use of bombs in Maiduguri, as they were blamed for a market bombing.

*An ANPP chieftain was killed barely four hours after some unknown assassins shot and wounded one sergeant Isa Omale and a corporal of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corp both attached to the Speaker Borno State House of Assembly Honourable Goni Ali Modu.

*On January 28th, 2011, a gubernatorial candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party ANPP, Alhaji Modu Fannami Gubio, was assassinated along with Alhaji Goni Sheriff and four police officers.  Gubio was executed at his family residence in Maiduguri Metropolis, after performing Friday Juma’at Prayer.

*There was a December 31, 2010, bomb blast in Abuja where many died, fingers were later pointed in the direction of Boko Haram.

*On April 9, a polling centre in Maiduguri was bombed and on April 15th, the Maiduguri office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was also bombed, and several people shot in separate incidents that same day.

*On April 20, Boko Haram killed a Muslim cleric and ambushed several police officers in Maiduguri

*On April 22, the group freed 14 prisoners during a jailbreak in Yola, Adamawa State.

*A former state chairman of the ANPP, Borno State chapter who was until his death, the National vice chairman North-East of the party, Alhaji Awagana Ali Ngala,  was shot dead by unknown gunmen at his resident in Maiduguri in October 6th, 2010.

Shortly after his funeral, the remains of a brother of Governor Ali Sheriff, Alhaji Goni Sheriff Ngala, the former Chairman of Ngala Local Government area,  who was also killed at the same place along side other six persons by the assailants were also committed to mother earth on that fateful Saturday. Also killed were senior police officers, prison warders including the army who were executed during exchange of gun battle with the sect members, while some officers of some of the security agencies were victims of several bomb blasts that rocked the state almost on weekly basis.

*An attack took place on Tuesday, June 7, when ten people including members of the Islamic sect were killed in twin bomb blasts that occurred in Maiduguri.

*At a location within Maiduguri, some gunmen suspected to be of Boko Haram, laid siege to Gwange Police Stations with another explosion. Police sources said the men had exhibited some measure of courage at the station as they engaged the police in a gun battle after throwing an explosion into the station.


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