The Federal Government has ordered a full investigation into how a wanted terrorist was granted Nigerian visa in Lebanon to escape into the country.
An official of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Vanguard in Abuja, yesterday, that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate the circumstances surrounding the issuance of Nigerian visa to the wanted terrorist who has been on the wanted list of several governments.
It will be recalled that a radical Muslim cleric, Ahmad al-Assir, was arrested by Lebanese authorities as he attempted to leave Lebanon for Nigeria via Cairo.
He was said to have been arrested while attempting to travel with a fake Palestinian passport with a valid Nigerian visa at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport on Saturday, August 15, 2015 in Lebanon.
According to the official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke with Vanguard on condition of anonymity, the ministry has been directed to explain how the wanted terrorist was able to get Nigerian visa.
“The reported arrest of the wanted terrorist is a huge embarrassment to Nigeria and the president has directed that the matter should be investigated.
“The embassy in Lebanon has been directed to furnish the ministry with details of how the man got the visa.
“The National Intelligence Agency Officer has been directed to provide details of what happened,” the official said.
The official added that Nigerian embassies around the world keep tab on wanted persons in their countries of accreditation and “we are amazed that such a high profile terrorist would evade our radar. This is a major breach that cannot be allowed to go without investigation”.
“This is more so that the Boko Haram sect has pledged allegiance to Islamic State terrorists. There is no way our embassy officials will allow such laxity in their areas of operation. The president is justifiably furious about it,” the source added.
It will be recalled that Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported that Assir, who was travelling with another man, was holding a fake passport in the name of Rami Abdul Rahman Taleb, while his companion was holding a passport in the name of Khaled Sidani.
He was reported to have shaved off his iconic beard and under gone facial surgery to conceal his identity but was identified by eagle eyed Lebanese security operatives.
Sheikh Assir has been on the run for two years, having been declared wanted in Lebanon in 2013 when his followers clashed with the Lebanese army, killing at least 18 soldiers.
He gained notoriety as a “a self-proclaimed defender of Sunni rights” due to his fiery anti-Hezbollah rhetoric and had reportedly been recruiting his followers to join the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) in Syria fighting against Assad’s government.
Violence broke out in 2013 when one of Assir’s men was caught with unlicensed weapons in his car at a military checkpoint in Sidon, south of Beirut. In reaction, Assir’s followers opened fire on the soldiers manning the checkpoint sparking a two-day battle between his militants and the army.