By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor, with agency reports

This is a story of the global onslaught against terrorist activities in the last 10 years.  It is the story of how the United States of America and Nigeria are contending with the deadly acts of terrorists. Are these two countries succeeding? What lessons can be learnt from the American approach, as today marks the 10th anniversary of the bringing down of the Twin Towers, the World Trade Centre buildings in New York City.

Compare and Contrast These Two

Some 48 hours ago, American authorities were on the trail of a threat from al-Qaeda to use a car bomb on bridges or tunnels in New York City or Washington. Though the threat was not immediately confirmed, the American authorities, nonetheless, chased the threat. It was the pursuit of such intelligence that led to the scuttling of the attempt on Times Square 10 years ago today, al-Qaeda brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City, killing thousands in the process.

In Nigeria, three weeks ago, intelligence about a possible attack on Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, was received by the authorities.  In response, heavy security was mounted. According to a top security chief, “there had been adequate arrangements put in place once we learnt of the plans of the sect members. That was why places like the Federal Secretariat, National Assembly Complex, headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Central Bank of Nigeria Complex, and even some embassies were fully secured”.

Information made available also indicated that the choice of the UN House by the sect may have been a last minute option “with the intention of inflicting maximum hurt and generating optimum though negative attention”.  But there is a growing sense in Nigeria that there is a breakdown of trust among the intelligence agencies.  In the US, its intelligence community has since outgrown this mentality and, therefore, is almost always moving one step ahead of the terrorists since the dastardly acts of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Two of a Kind

There is ample evidence now in Nigeria, according to security sources, to suggest that the now dreaded Ahlan Sunnah Lid Da’waati wal Jihad Yaanaa (brothers), popularly known as the Boko Haram sect, has collaborators in al-Shabab and al-Qaeda.  In fact, a report last month quoting General Carter Ham, AFRICOMS Commander, as saying that Boko Haram is now in league with al-Qaeda In Maghreb as well as al-Shabab, further goes to demonstrate the growing reach of Boko Haram.

In fact, Boko Haram sent some eight persons to Algeria in North Africa to learn how to make Improvised Explosive Device, IEDs, Sunday Vanguard can reveal. And, from all indications, those they sent appeared to have learnt well. They appear to have perfected the art of making IEDs which is now being used in the country.

It is somewhat instructive that on Friday, September 7, 2001, just four days before the bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, WTC, Jos, the capital of Nigeria also erupted with ethno-religious violence that has ceased to abate since then.  Whereas the Americans are marking their 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a sense of subdued victory over al-Qaeda, the Jos crisis has continued to be a very sour spot on the polity such that just last week on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Jos crisis, violence, wanton killings were again signposted as reminders of the seeming lack of ability to crack down on the perpetrators.

A glimmer of hope, Sunday Vanguard can reveal, was recorded last Wednesday.

Sunday Vanguard was informed that the brain-behind the Christmas day bombing in Jos last December has been arrested.

In the same vein, Nigeria’s department of State Security smashed a bomb making factory in Suleja, prior to which it had arrested some Boko Haram terrorists in connection with the bombing of the United Nations House in Abuja.

Lessons From

America’s War On Terror

The fact that the Americans, with a long history of systematic and systemic capabilities in combating crime, are recording successes, should be a lesson for Nigeria’s intelligence community that the fight against Boko Haram is not a tea party.

For instance, whereas it was the British intelligence operatives, with the active involvement of Home Secretary John Reid, Britain’s top law-and-order official, who actually commenced investigations into the activities of some Arabs who were planning to use liquid bombs aboard flights into America, once their American counterparts were informed, it became a joint effort such that at both ends of the command, no stone was left unturned. This was in 2006. Rashid Rauf, the mastermind based in Pakistan was arrested on the prompting of the Americans. He was said to have escaped after a few months but has since been reportedly killed in a drone attack in the mountainous region of Pakistan. In London, M15 operatives equally arrested the following in the liquid bomb plot which has prompted aviation authorities to ban any form of liquid on board a flight – Tanvir Hussain, 25; Umar Islam, 28; Arafat Waheed Khan, 25; Ahmed Abdullah Ali, 25; Ibrahim Savant, 25;Waheed Zaman, 22; Assad Sarwar, 26, and Adam Khatib, 19.

Just last year, the Americans foiled an attempt by Faisal Shahzad, a 31-year-old US citizen who lived in the Connecticut suburbs, to detonate a car full of explosives in New York’s busy Times Square.

The Original

9/11 Plot

On September 9, 2001, two days before the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, Ahmad Shah Massoud, commander of the United Front guerrilla opposition to Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, was assassinated in the Afghan town of Khvajeh Baha od Din by two Arab men posing as journalists. Both of the assassins died.

Observers attribute the murder either to al-Qaeda or to the Taliban – ostensibly, as a prelude to the event of 9/11.

It would be surprising to note that the original plan of the 9/11 mastermind was meant to inflict maximum hurt on the western world.

In the 9/11 Commission Report, it was stated that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, KSM, the Kuwaiti al-Qaeda operative indicted as being the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, reportedly first met with bin Laden at a mountain fortress in Tora Bora, along the Afghan-Pakistan border, in 1996 to present his proposal to carry out bin Laden’s expressed desire to kill Americans.

The idea was not a totally original one. It was an idea which ran in the family.  Mohammed had been involved in a previous plot, Project Bojinka, which had been led by his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre. Yousef’s sprawling, grandiose scheme included assassinating President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II, attacking nuclear plants in the U.S., Great Britain and France, and planting and detonating bombs on a dozen airliners headed for the U.S. from Asia, so that they would explode over the Pacific, killing thousands of passengers.

It had all fizzled after Philippine authorities discovered the bomb-making operation in the Manila apartment that Yousef and Mohammed had used as a base, and arrested and interrogated one of their co-plotters, who gave up the details. But one item from the terrorists’ wish list—hijacking an airliner and crashing it into U.S. Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia—apparently gave Mohammed his inspiration. Instead of blowing up airliners, what if hijackers seized them and flew them into buildings, killing thousands of people at once?

Mohammed’s twist of flying the planes into buildings was something al-Qaeda leaders hadn’t envisioned. Mohammed then sketched out a plan that was even more ambitious than Project Bojinka. He wanted to hijack 10 airliners simultaneously. Nine of them would be crashed into targets on both U.S. coasts, including the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, CIA and FBI headquarters, nuclear power plants, the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, and Seattle’s Columbia Center. As the 9/11 Commission report details, the finale would be even more spectacular:

KSM himself was to land the 10th  plane at a U.S. airport and, after killing all adult male passengers on board and alerting the media, deliver a speech excoriating U.S. support for Israel, the Philippines, and repressive governments in the Arab world.

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