The Nigerian Military Tuesday said it had recorded another success in the ongoing offensive against members of the Boko Haram sect, with a confirmation that a close associate of the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, had been found dead, while on an errand.
The confirmation, however, comes barely 24 hours after the troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF) deployed to enforce the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States, said it had killed three insurgents, including a senior figure called Abba, and capturing 25 others in the process.
But, Shekau in a video obtained by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) yesterday, claimed that the soldiers deployed to the three states have retreated during the ongoing military offensive, while the insurgents sustained little damage.
In the face of the hostilities also came a report that a senior personnel in the Operations Department of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) (names withheld), who allegedly was assisting the sect to get arms and ammunition into the country through the nation’s border posts with Cameroun and Niger Republic in Borno State had been apprehended, according to a security source.
Speaking on the development, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade, confirmed in a statement that Shekau’s associate was found dead, while on an errand.
Olukolade also revealed the capture of two insurgents, one of them a Nigerien, who were on the verge of crossing to Niger Republic through Lake Chad.
He said: “The terrorist believed to be a close associate of insurgents’ leader Abubakar Shekau has been found dead as he ran errand for the leadership. The other two fellow terrorists one of which is confirmed to be a Nigerien are now in the custody of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJT).
“The three were in the process of crossing the border to the neighbouring Niger Republic through the Lake Chad.”
The DDI said the three captured insurgents were confirmed to have operated in Baga and “participated in perpetrating arson and other atrocities around the vicinity of the town. They have been relocating from place to place since they left Baga last month.”
However, the Boko Haram video, according to AFP, marked the first public comments from Shekau, since the start of a sweeping offensive by the Nigerian Army on May 15.
Shekau’s whereabouts, which could not be determined in the video, in which he was shown seated, while dressed in camouflage with a turban, an AK-47 at his side, called on foreign Islamist groups to join the fight in Nigeria.
“Since we started this ongoing war which they call state of emergency…in some instances soldiers who faced us turned and ran,” Shekau said in the hour-long video.
The Boko Haram leader, who claimed that the Nigerian forces “threw down their arms in flight”, called on like-minded Islamists in countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to join the fight to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.
“We call to us our brethren in these countries I mentioned. Oh! Our brethren, come to us,” he said in the video, which alternated between Arabic and the Hausa language spoken across northern part of the country.
Shekau, who was designated as a global terrorist by the United States last year, had repeated earlier statements that Boko Haram “will not stop the kidnap of your women and children until you set free our women and children, and our brethren.”
He also said the sect’s goal was either the creation of an Islamic state or “martyrdom”.
The video was delivered to AFP, though an intermediary in a manner similar to previous Boko Haram messages with the images of Shekau in the video as consistent with those previously released.
Meanwhile, the arrest of the top Customs official, THISDAY gathered, was the subject of discourse among residents of Maiduguri metropolis and its environs, as residents expressed mixed feelings about the development.
It was also gathered that the discussion at all corners of Maiduguri centred on the arrest of the officer, residents expressed appreciation over the arrest of the Customs official, who was said to have allegedly assisted the Boko Haram sect get thousands of weapons, arms and ammunition into the country through the border.
This arrest of the official, it was gathered, followed the arrest of some members of the sect, who spilled the bean on him.
The source said: “He was arrested by the military, following the arrest of some militant sect members, who after series of interrogations, revealed that the officer was one of the many security officers helping them to bring in weapons to the state.”
The security source said: “The senior officer manned the border post each time the truck conveying arms was about coming to Maiduguri.”
“He would simply tell his boys to let it pass that it has been cleared from above,” the source added.