1 June 2013

Nigeria: FG - We're Studying Possible Boko Haram-Hezbollah Link

Photo: Vanguard
Weapons discovered in Kano

The federal government has said it would confirm purported link between Boko Haram and Lebanon-based militant group, Hezbollah, before any concrete action could be taken. The government's position emerged a day after officers of the Joint Task Force discovered a cache of arms at the home of a Lebanese in Kano.

This came on a day the Lebanese community in Kano distanced itself from the weapons which Nigerian security agencies have linked to Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organisation by many western nations.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin Uhomoihbi, told journalists at a media briefing Friday in Abuja, that Nigeria's relationship with Lebanon cannot be truncated by the conduct of a few citizens.

"What we are reading from the press needs to be confirmed. We would study the situation and take the appropriate action when we do so. Lebanon is a country with which we have excellent bilateral relations. It would not be right to judge a relationship with a country based the conduct of a few citizens," he said, adding that the relationship between the two nations has blossomed in the Jonathan administration.

Speaking on the outcome of the AU Summit and Nigeria's participation, Uhomoibhi disclosed that Nigeria provided the much needed leadership in settling the question of finding alternative sources for funding of the AU which is at present heavily dependent on external partners for most of its programmers' budget.

According to the permanent secretary, President Jonathan, at the Summit was able to convince the panel set up to identify possible sources of raising alternative funding for the AU after the members resisted the adoption of the recommendations in the report.

Briefing Reporters in Kano in its first reaction to the shocking discovery, Chairman of the Lebanese community, Tahir Fadlallah, said members of the community "unequivocally condemns crime in whatever form".

Fadlallah, chairman of the Tahir Guest Palace in Kano said that 'with almost century years of our stay in Kano, we have never been associated with any crime that threatened the peace of our host.

"The community is ready and willing to cooperate with security and law enforcement agencies in their efforts to counter any act or activities associated or related to terrorists act."

According to him, "Lebanese community will not accept or associate with any criminal associated or related by any individual or group".

Tahir also condemned a media report suggesting he had a link to the armoury. "I am not involved and prepared to initiate a legal action for redress."

On Thursday, the Department of State Security Service (DSS) and the Nigerian Army 3 Brigade, in Bukavu, Kano, uncovered an arms warehouse at a building owned by a Lebanese national identified as Abdul Hassan. The weapons were allegedly found in an underground bunker of his master bedroom at his No 3 Gaya Road, off Bompai Road residence.

Also, troops of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) deployed to enforce the state of emergency in some states of the north are fast gaining the host communities on their side, as they are said to be more inclined to expose members of sect in their midst.

A statement issued yesterday by the Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade said community members now volunteer information that has helped the force to foil infiltration of the insurgents among locals.

Olukolade said that the cooperation of the civilian population was crucial in the capture of a group of deserting Boko Haram members who were searching for food from the communities.

He said that the intensive cordon and search operation being conducted by the troops of the Special Forces received the major boost from civilians in communities close to locations being focused in the operation on Thursday.

He said: "A group of terrorists moving from village to village in search of large quantity of food were tracked and apprehended following a tip-off from civilians.

"The group which was moving around in a Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep with registration number Borno XA 428 ADM which is suspected to have been stolen was eventually arrested at Daban Masara with weapons such as AK 47 rifle, single barrel shotgun, double hand shotgun and various calibres of ammunition."

Olukolade also disclosed that 56 insurgents were apprehended with the help of military police dogs.

He listed the items recovered from the arrested insurgents to include seven packs of IEDs, two rocket-propelled gun chargers, a rifle magazine, two machetes, bomb detonators, camouflage and other military uniforms as well as medicines equipment, seven vehicles including a Jeep and eight tri-cycles.

"It is believed that some stranded terrorists are keen on establishing new camps. They are being trailed accordingly. There were also a few encounters with some insurgents in forest locations apart from the identified and destroyed camps. The campaign to rid the nation's territories of the insurgents continues," he added

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