Nigerian troops have arrested a businessman accused of “participating actively” in Boko Haram’s mass abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State last year, Nigeria’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.
Quoting Defence Headquarters (DHQ) spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, the UK-based Telegraph newspaper reported that the suspect, Babuji Ya’ari, headed a “terrorists’ intelligence cell” for the Islamic extremists while masquerading as a member of the self-defence Youth Vigilante Group.
This confirms suspicions that the vigilantes have been infiltrated by Boko Haram. Soldiers have told the Associated Press (AP) that some of their comrades also belong to the extremist group.
“The arrest of the businessman … has also yielded some vital information and facilitated the arrest of other members of the terrorists’ intelligence cell who are women,” Olukolade said in a statement Tuesday night.
He did not say when the arrests were made or how many people were arrested.
He alleged that Ya’ari has since 2011 coordinated several deadly attacks on Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, and spearheaded the May 2014 assassination of the Emir of Gwoza, a religious and traditional ruler who was targeted for speaking out against Boko Haram’s extremism.
One arrested woman, Hafsat Bako, confessed to coordinating the payroll for operatives paid a minimum of N10,000 a job, the defence ministry statement said.
Boko Haram was responsible for the April 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok. Fifty-seven escaped but 219 schoolgirls remain missing.
The mass abduction sparked international outrage and demands for the girls’ release under the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.