Terror groups have begun a recruitment drive in the South-West with the aim of establishing cells in the zone, Saturday Punch’s investigations have shown.
The recruitment drive by the Boko Haram and its breakaway faction, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan, it was gathered, was a prelude to attacks they were planning to launch in the zone.
The idea is to establish cells within the South-West to coordinate attacks within the zone by identifying fundamentalists in the area.
A security source, who disclosed this, said the plan to move to the South-West, particularly Lagos, was hinged on the economic importance of the zone.
Investigations showed that the groups reasoned that attacks on the South-West would not only affect the country’s economy, but could also precipitate ethnic clashes across the country.
It was learnt that major towns the groups planned to attack included Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan and Osogbo.
Investigations showed that the planned attacks would include planting of bombs at public buildings, on roads and outright suicide bombings.
Besides Northerners living in the South-West, the groups, it was gathered, were also zeroing in on people from the zone as their potential members.
A highly placed security source told one of our correspondents that the terror organisations had hitherto found it difficult to penetrate South-West.
He said that they were targeting people from the zone with the hope that such people would assist them in establishing cells in the area. The security source told one of our correspondents that, “There is no doubt terror groups have their eyes on the South-West. Their plan is to spread their activities to the zone, which has a high Muslim population.
“People they are planning to recruit include Northerners living in the South-West as well as Yoruba that have the same religious belief with them. It is part of their plan to spread Jihad to Africa.”
It was gathered that the attacks were part of measures by the groups to protest Nigeria’s intervention in the Malian crisis.
The breakaway faction of Boko Haram, ANSARUL, had on January 19, 2013 claimed responsibility for an attack on Nigerian soldiers going to Mali.
The soldiers were attacked near Okenne, Kogi State.
In a terse statement posted by an online publication, Dessert Herald, on January 20, a leader of JAMBS, Abu Usamatal Ansary, warned Nigeria and other Africans to be ready for “more difficulties” as they embarked on restoring peace to Mali.
The statement had read, “We, members of Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan, are gladly informing the general public, especially those in black Africa, that with the aid and guidance of Allah, we, on January 19, 2013 at Itape, Ekehi Local Government Area of Kogi State, successfully executed our first attempt in attacking the Nigerian troops that were aiming to demolish the Islamic Empire of Mali.
“We are equipped and waiting for any slightest attempt of Nigerian Army moving towards the Islamic Empire of Mali. And we are warning African countries to stop helping Western countries in fighting against Islam and Muslims; if not, we are sternly assuring them, particularly the Nigerian government, to be prepared and be ready to face difficulties from JAMBS anywhere and anytime. May Allah help us and grant our wishes.”
On Thursday, an operative of the State Security Service told one of our correspondents that the service was aware of the present move by the terror networks to penetrate the South-West.
The source said that the SSS and other security operatives had anticipated the high possibility of those behind the acts of terror to move beyond the northern parts of the country.
It was stated that a consciousness of that fact played a role in the recent bursting of a terror cell being sponsored by Iranians.
But another security source said there was a growing discomfort among security personnel that the arrangement put in place by the police authorities favoured the move to penetrate other parts of the country.
It was stated that the collapse of road blocks across the country in this era of terror was a security miscalculation as the decision would encourage the movement of arms and ammunition and other weapons from one part of the country to the other.
The security source stated that those behind the acts of terror could have easily taken advantage of the loose security situation in the South-West to launch similar attacks in the zone from the Sabo settlements being inhabited chiefly by northern Muslims.
Top police personalities confirmed that police authorities were aware of the plot.
However, the Force Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, was evasive as he refused to comment on what he described as a sensitive security issue.