The Defence Headquarters, DHQ, has arrested the “parents in-law” of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Disclosing this yesterday, the DHQ, apparently satisfied with its onslaught on the foot soldiers of the sect, also said that its Special Forces were now on the trail of “Amirs” or cell leaders of the sect.
The commanders are mostly involved in recruitment of suicide bombers and planning attacks.
This was even as the Nigerian Army explained that the career status of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former Chief Security Officer to the late Gen. Sani Abacha, saying he is still a military officer.
Speaking at a briefing by the Joint Security Services Public Information Committee yesterday, a representative of the Army spokesman, Col. Emmanuel Ajim, however, said that issues regarding Al-Mustapha’s rank would be decided administratively.
After his release by a Court of Appeal in Lagos, Al-Mustapha, whom some of his peers are now Brigadiers- General, had said he remained a military officer. Defence spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who chaired the session, said that despite occasional attacks, the war on terror was being won. He said that Shekau’s inlaws were arrested after a raid on the Bulabulin area of Maiduguri.
He said: “Notwithstanding the sporadic asymmetric attacks on certain soft targets, you would have noticed a drastic reduction in bombings and attacks on places outside the North- East epicenter of the terrorists.
“The improved security situation as indicated in the general assessment has resulted in the ongoing phased restoration of telecommunication services in the states where it had been withdrawn at the beginning of operation. “Several terrorists, including their foreign members, are being tracked down.
Key terrorists, especially those in the cadre of Amir as well as those helping in their renewed mobilisation and recruitment of minors, are being hunted. “A recent encounter in the terrorist main enclaves in Bulabulin Nganaram, Aljajeri and Faluja in Maiduguri metropolis led to the death of Amir of Bulabulin Nganaram, one of the kingpins on the Joint Task Force, JTF, wanted list. “Many women and minors were rescued and handed over to their families by the JTF.
A number of terrorists have been apprehended by the Special Forces. Many of them have also died in battle with the forces. “Various resources, including trained military police dogs, facilitated the arrest of insurgents who try to infiltrate the cities after being dislodged from their bases at the onset of the operation.
Cordon-and-search operations have started enjoying tremendous cooperation of locals.
“Troops on cordon-andsearch operations in Bulabulin area in Maiduguri last week discovered underground tunnels connecting houses and many bunkers some of which have the capacity to accommodate over 100 persons. “More corpses were also discovered in soak-aways and various weapons were also discovered in the same area.
Abubakar Shekau’s parents-in-law were picked up in the raid, which also discovered various audio recordings of terrorists’ messages. Recoveries are made almost on daily basis as the operation progresses.
“The recoveries include eight AK47 assault rifles, one G3 rifle, nine AK47 magazines, one rocket propelled grenade charger, five rocket propelled grenades, three FMC magazines, one G3 magazine, 14 IEDs and 166 rounds of 7.62mm special. “Others are: three 35mm bazooka; 34 rounds of 5.56mm, 1,740 rounds of 303 inch, 10 rounds of 7.62 NATO, one round of .50mm, one dane gun, one locally made pistol and two megaphones.”
On the purported threat by Shekau to attack more schools in the North, the DHQ vowed to accord special protection to schools. Olukolade said as relative peace was being restored to the affected states, peace and confidence building mechanisms had been provided to consolidate on the achievements of the forces.
“One of the gains of the confidence building process is that civilian populace are now not only willing to volunteer information on suspected individuals in their vicinity but are prepared to get physically involved in apprehending them.
“Defence Headquarters assessment teams who visited the states observed increased commercial activities as banks, markets and other public places have been opened and are in business,” he added.
He called on the international community to support Nigeria in these trying times, saying the terrorists had violated Nigeria’s sovereignty and “have committed mindless atrocities against citizens and there is no way such abuse, lawlessness and hate ideology could be encouraged or allowed to continue.”
He added: “While the forces will remain accountable, the prying eyes of various activists should equally focus on the unending and condemnable atrocities of terrorists rather than desperately trying to play to the gallery by seeking evidence to indict the forces of non-existent human rights abuses. “The forces are not on any revenge mission but purely on a mission to restore law and order.
“The misinformation in terms of reporting human rights issues has been enormous and more mischievous than real. “There are more attempts to screen terrorists from justice by indicting the process of apprehending and presenting them for justice.
The attempt to set subjective standards in rating compliance with human rights here is unfair and should be condemned. “Our citizens should beware of running errands for those whose motives on our nation’s integrity and security remain suspect.”
Olukolade also said that the anti-oil theft patrol teams of the Joint Task Force, JTF, Operation Pulo Shield, operating in the Niger Delta recently arrested three self-propelled barges and a tugboat in the waterways of the Niger Delta.
“Two of the barges were laden with over 6,000 litres of illegally refined Automated Gas Oil, AGO,” he said. In a related development, troops have uncovered 35 illegal refineries and an illegal fuel dump concealed in a shrine in Warri South- West Local Government Area of Delta State.
According to the DHQ spokesman: “A total of 15 suspects have been arrested while three barges have been impounded. Some illegal refineries earlier destroyed were noted to have been reactivated elsewhere. This indicated the desperation of criminals engaged in the business.
“Some notorious leaders of kidnap groups have also been arrested. The troops are currently engaged in aggressive patrols to sustain this tempo of activities to checkmate and forestall emergence of new criminal groups in the Niger Delta.”
In Plateau State, he said that the Special Task Force, STF, despite its efforts and successes in executing its mandate, recorded unwarranted attacks on its men leading to deaths and injuries.
“This disturbing trend has, however, been nipped in the bud as no incident of such has been reported recently. “Apart from the rampant attacks on communities, the crime of cattle rustling was also prevalent in the state. The STF has, however, been able to tackle this crime to some extent by recovering the stolen cattle and returning them to their owners,” Olukolade added.