Security agencies, including the Department of State Service (DSS), have identified an Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) network operating within some areas in North Central and South South geopolitical zones as mastermind of recent killings in the country.
According to them, the ISWA terror group use foreign terrorists and recruit young men to fight and kill innocent Nigerians ostensibly to exacerbate tensions along the county’s ethnic, religious and regional fault lines.
This, LEADERSHIP gathered, is contained in a report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by the security agencies.
Reliable sources in the presidency told our correspondent that this discovery was made following the arrest of several suspected attackers made up of Fulani herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other miscreants in Benue Sate.
They said among those in custody were many who spoke none of the languages native to Nigeria but the French language.
This is the first time security officials have confirmed that members of the Islamic State in West Africa are operating as a unit in Nigeria and the level of their penetration in the country.
One of the sources revealed that a good number of the Islamic State terrorists have been arrested not only in the Benue valley but significantly in several towns in Edo State, specifically in Akoko-Edo, Okpella and Benin as well as in Okene, Kogi State.
The presidency source who did not want his name in print said, “It is understood that the sect which has members in different parts of the country concentrates on recruiting young men to fight for the Islamic State in West Africa by unleashing the cold-blooded murder of innocent citizens.
“There was intelligence that they had planned several attacks here, before and during Christmas and the New Year. Their bombing targets included fuel depots, foreign missions and police and military establishments. Their network is very wide.
“But so much was achieved by the DSS which had made a significant number of arrests in the last two months that helped to preempt those attacks. This helped to save Nigeria from the spate of major terrorist attacks witnessed elsewhere that were syndicated by ISIS worldwide.”
The reports said to have been submitted to the president also revealed that security officials now fear an influx of other ISIS members into many parts of the country.
“We are learning more and more about this complex and sophisticated network. This is the main reason why the secret service is not parading those suspects so far arrested. It has become clear to us by now that the challenge facing this country is a serious one,” the source added.
When contacted, presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, confirmed that President Buhari had been receiving what he described as “report upon report on the situation in Benue and other states”.
He added that though the DSS has recorded a lot of success lately, he had “not been briefed on any of those reports”.
Arms-laden Helicopter Lands In Taraba, Says State Govt
Meanwhile, there is palpable tension in Taraba State following an alarm raised by the state government that an helicopter suspected to be loaded with arms and ammunition has landed in Jibu, a village located along River Benue, somewhere close to Ibi local government area of the state.
Confirming this, the senior Special assistant to the state governor on media and publicity, Bala Dan Abu who spoke to LEADERSHIP on telephone yesterday in Jalingo explained that the arms and ammunition are allegedly meant for a militia group that may be planning an attack on some villages in the state.
He said that this system of arms delivery also happened prior to the tragic attacks in Agatu in Benue State last year, which led to the killings in the community.
“This system of arms delivery happened in Benue State last year and nothing was done to trace and arrest the owners of the helicopter”, he said, adding that another planned militia attacks may be in the offing.
Abu called on sons and daughters of the state to be security conscious, noting that the administration of Governor Darius Ishaku would not hesitate to crush anybody that stands against efforts to bring lasting peace to the state.
When contacted, the Taraba State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP David Misal, told LEADERSHIP on telephone that the State Command has no such information.
“The command is not aware of an helicopter suspected to be loaded with arms and ammunition that landed in a place called Jibu,” he said.