Maiduguri — The State Security Service yesterday said it captured the purported spokesman for Boko Haram sect Abul Qaqa, who frequently made statements to the press after attacks by the group.
Security sources said Qaqa's arrest is the biggest catch yet in the bid to tame the sect, which had been waging a campaign of deadly bombings and shootings in the country for nearly two years.
An official of the SSS told Daily Trust that the man, an indigene of Kogi State who uses a nom de guerre, was captured on Tuesday in Kaduna.
Borno State director of the SSS, Ahmed Abdullahi, told the Associated Press news agency last night that officers tracked down Abul Qaqa through signals sent out by his mobile phone.
The agency later flew him to Abuja for further questioning.
None of the officials who spoke said specifically how they confirmed that the arrested man was Abul Qaqa.
"We are still taking to him. Since 'Abul Qaqa' is a pseudonym for the Boko Haram spokesman, we want to be sure of who we have with us. But we have been on his trail for months now. He's been changing locations and contacts," a source in the SSS said.
Another security source said: "It is a landmark feat that has been achieved through collaboration with various stakeholders. Qaqa is a senior member of the Shura (Supreme Council) of the sect and his arrest is probably the biggest ever made by security forces since after the death of leader of the sect Mohammed Yusuf in 2009."
A Boko Haram follower who called journalists in Maiduguri yesterday but did not give his name confirmed the arrest of Qaqa, whom he said is one of their leaders.
"Malam was picked yesterday," the man said, referring to Qaqa. "Some security officials traced the house where he stayed and picked him. There was no exchange of gunshots or any scuffle between our members and the security agents."
He added: "We have no specific message for the world now until we hear from our spiritual leader, Malam Abubakar Shekau."
Daily Trust learnt that Abul Qaqa has been a close companion of sect leader Shekau.
He announced himself as acting spokesman for Boko Haram sometime last year, when he said he was standing in for the substantive spokesman Abu Zaid, most likely also a pseudonym.
Qaqa served as a go-between between Boko Haram leaders and the media, issuing claims of responsibility typically the same day as attacks.
He first came to limelight when he announced that the sect was responsible for the UN House suicide bombing in Abuja in August. His predecessor Abu Zaid was the one who announced the sect's claim to bombing the Police Force Headquarters earlier in June.
Abul Qaqa went on to announce Boko Haram's responsibility for other attacks in Maiduguri, Yobe and most recently Kano, as well as the Christmas Day bombing at Madalla, Niger State.
Last week, he gave an interview to the Guardian newspaper of Britain, in which he dismissed President Jonathan's statement asking the sect to come out for dialogue.
The last time Abul Qaqa spoke to journalists was on Saturday when he issued threats to attack Sokoto unless their members detained there were released.
He announced that the sect had written letters to the Sultan of Sokoto, speaker of the House of Representatives and the acting governor of Sokoto State, notifying them of the plans to attack the city.
Last year, a court convicted a supposed spokesman for Boko Haram, Aliyu Konduga, who apparently had only a loose affiliation with the group.
The sect denounced him, but he went on to implicate Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who is now standing trial over alleged links with the group. Ndume denied the charges, and he is due to appear in court in Abuja today.