21 September 2013

Nigeria: SSS, Boko Haram Clash

Operatives of State Security Service Friday stormed an uncompleted building in Apo Area of Abuja occupied by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect.

In the resultant battle, 12 members of the sect were arrested while several others were injured.

This is coming on the heels of a fresh Boko Haram attack in Borno State, leading to the death of 22 people in Bulabulin Ngaura Village located on Damboa-Maiduguri Highway in in Konduga Local Government Area. The sect also entered Buni Yadi in Yobe State yesterday, killing three people and setting on fire several public buildings.

On the same day, the Borno State House of Assembly passed a vote of no confidence on the federal government over the Boko Haram crisis.

But last night, one of the people injured in the uncompleted building during the clash in Abuja, Mallam Ibrahim Mohammed from Zamfara State denied being a Boko Haram member. Mohammed who spoke through an interpreter on his hospital bed at the Accident and Emergency Department of Asokoro Hospital, urged government to probe the incident.

"We are not Boko Haram members; that is a great blackmail, it is not true. The owner of the house instructed security men to get rid of us; he used his contact in government to descend on us. We are not Boko Haram members. This matter must not be swept under the carpet. It is unfortunate that we are being treated like this," he said.

But in a statement friday, SSS's Public Relations Officer, Marilyn Ogar said there was no death recorded in the duel but confirmed that so far, 12 people had been arrested.

Ogar said in a release: "In the early hours of today 20th (yesterday) September, 2013, about 0030 hours, a combined security team went for an operation behind the Apo legislative quarters. The operation was sequel to information obtained from two (2) Boko Haram elements Kamal Abdullahi and Mohammed Adamu, who had earlier been arrested for terrorist activities.

"They led the security team to uncompleted buildings where arms were purported to have been buried underground. No sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms, than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements within the area, which prompted immediate response from the security team.

"As a result, some persons were injured and twelve (12) others have been arrested in connection with the incident, and are making useful statements."

Reuters quoted a doctor in a hospital morgue, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak, saying seven people had been killed in the incident. A Reuters reporter saw a police truck dump three bodies then drive off, leaving a trail of blood.

An ambulance deposited another body, with bandages wrapped around the bloodied torso. There was no security presence at the hospital, as might have been expected if there had been Boko Haram suspects among the wounded.

Six witnesses, including two people injured by bullets, told Reuters the building was a house owned by a military man that had been occupied by about 100 squatters who were refusing to leave. Security forces raided it and opened fire on the squatters, they said. Witnesses disputed the SSS account. A 28-year-old shoe hawker in torn clothes, who gave his name only as Mohammed for fear of reprisals and nursed a bloody bandages around both legs, said he was one of the squatters.

He said the owner had come on Wednesday and told them to leave, but they had refused because they were paying a security guard to be allowed to stay there.

On Thursday the security guard had left, then at around midnight, five pick-up trucks arrived carrying armed personnel. "They began firing. It was crazy," Mohammed said. "We were running helter skelter and bullets were flying." Five other witnesses gave similar accounts, but two security sources said they believed the SSS had gone to the building to identify Boko Haram suspects and recover arms.

Boko Haram has been responsible for hundreds of killings this year, although Nigerian forces are also often accused of executing suspects then labeling them Boko Haram.

Sources also told THISDAY that the SSS met stiff resistance from the suspected sect members, around the Apo uncompleted building, "who opened fire sporadically on them" and that seven people died during the clash. But as at press time, the alleged casualty figure could not be confirmed.

The sources claimed the building located at the back of the Apo legislative quarters, belonged to a retired top military officer. Although the name of the military officer was unknown as at the time of filing of this report, the source said the retired officer, who is said to be one of the power brokers from the Northern part of the country, resides in another part of the city.

However, the Nigerian Army has kept mum over the clash insisting that it was an SSS-led joint operation. The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, when queried on the suspected military personnel involved in the act, insisted that the SSS Spokeswoman, had spoken exhaustively on the matter.

Meanwhile, some police patrol teams are on ground in the area. Speaking on the incident, FCT Police Spokesperson, Hyelhira Daniel (Deputy Superintendent of Police) said the police had started full investigation into the case and would make its findings available to members of the public when concluded.

In its reaction, the FCT Administration warned all property owners and developers within the Nation's Capital against harbouring squatters or miscreants in their uncompleted structures.

The fresh Boko Haram attack in Borno State yesterday left 22 people dead in Bulabulin Ngaura village. The latest attack is coming after the decision of the Yobe State Government to move the airlifting of its intending pilgrims from the Maiduguri International Airport to the Aminu Kano International, Kano for fear of being ambushed by the sect on the Maiduguri/Damaturu Highway.

During the Bulabulin Ngaura attack, the Boko Haram members allegedly stormed the town and intercepted a commercial bank bullion van on Thursday evening.

They allegedly killed eight persons, including three police escorts, bank officials and the driver of the vehicle. The gunmen were said to have gone deeply into the town on Friday morning, setting ablaze buildings and killing 14 persons.

A security source told journalists that "Today (Friday) when we were coming from Biu to Maiduguri, we saw 14 corpses on the highway at Bulabulin Ngaura."

During the attack in Tobe State on Wednesday, the sect laid siege on Buni Yadi, setting on fire many public buildings in the town. A soldier and two civilians were also killed.

One of the two civilians killed was said to be the wife of a senior police officer. According to sources, the insurgents armed with Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers and homemade bombs, stormed Yadi Buni at about 10:00 pm.

A resident of Buni Yadi, who spoke anonymously to journalists, said the attackers numbering about 50 stormed the town shooting sporadically and forcing them to flee.

He revealed that the son of the Yobe State Peoples Democratic Party's youth leader, Alhaji Ado Bomboy, was killed in the attack while many shops, houses and two telecommunications masts were set ablaze.

Confirming the attack, Yobe State Police Commissioner Sanusi Ahmed Rufa'i said the attackers killed one soldier, wounded two and burnt the Divisional Police Officer's wife inside her house.

A make-shift police station, fire service, Local Education Authority office and two JTF Hilux vans were also set ablaze by the insurgents. The Borno State House of Assembly said it decided to pass a vote of no confidence on the federal government for its handling of the Boko Haram crisis because "the situation has been deteriorating."

The Assembly lamented that the way and manner the federal government had dealt with the insecurity situation in the state in recent times had made the situation worse rather than improving as the insurgents have continuously attacked helpless villagers and laid waste properties.

The Leader of the Assembly, Hon. Idrissa Jidda while expressing displeasure over the handling of the security situation by the federal government under President Goodluck Jonathan said the house would always stand by the Governor Kashim Shettima "for his doggedness in handling state matters especially the security challenges."

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