We Are Aware of Al-Qaeda Threat, Nigerian Armed Forces Tells US
The Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria yesterday told the United States of America (USA) that it was not oblivious of the potency of the infiltration of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda terrorists into the West African sub-region.
According to the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), it was the Nigerian military that initially raised the alarm over the movement of terrorists from the Middle East to West Africa.
It said that the warning by United States Africa Command (US AFRICOM) over the infiltration of the terrorists groups was a call for the Nigerian troops to sustain the ongoing onslaught against the Boko Haram terrorists and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The DHQ noted that this was not the first time such an alarm was raised, adding that the military was aware of the development.
The coordinator of Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, stated this during the weekly update on Armed Forces of Nigeria operations across the country at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja.
The US Africa Command had warned Nigeria that the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda terror groups were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to gradually take over the West African region after losing ground in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East.
The commander, US Special Operations Command, Africa, Major General Dagvin RM Anderson, warned that the extremists were already deploying several strategies to silently re-establish themselves in the region and expand further in the entire continent without drawing attention.
He revealed that the Al-Qaeda sect has already expanded in Mali and had moved into northern Burkina Faso, where they attacked infrastructure, took out local governance and security forces, and are now controlling the local economy and exert their control over the population.
“And we’re seeing them continue to move further south in Burkina Faso towards those littoral nations in the Gulf of Guinea, and also further west towards Senegal and West Africa. So that’s a concern to us as we watch them continue to move throughout the region,” Anderson had said.
But noting the readiness of the Nigerian military against such threats, General Enenche said “Will I call it an advice or our attention being drawn to the fact that terrorists from other zones are coming here? I think it would be good for us to be keeping records of events as they unfold.
“For me, this is not the first time they are raising such an alarm. The alarm is as old as maybe five or 10 years ago and the Armed Forces and the country are conscious of it.
“When the conflict in Libya was declared officially that it ended, which did not end, what happened? It was we, our NIA, State Security Services and all that raised the information that these people are moving. Have we not captured foreigners among the people that have been terrorising us in this country?
“So, it is just like a call to keep doing what we are doing. So, the general public should know that the security agencies are on top of that one”.
Enenche added that some terrorists from a neighbouring country were recently captured in Niger State, an indication that the nation’s Armed Forces are alive to their responsibilities.
He, therefore, asked the general public not to despair as America’s alert was not new, even as he said all strategies were in place to check the terrorists.
The military spokesman continued: “Why do we have ISAWP here now; was ISWAP indigenous to Nigeria? No! So, it is just like telling you the obvious and I want to take it like an advice to continue to ensure you have measures in place to continue checking them.
“When it came out, a lot of people read the headlines but I went into the details presented. It was not specific like saying ‘you people should put effort to continue to contain them’ because pressure is put on them in other areas, and they would increase their influx. It’s just like a wake-up call, which is readily welcome.
“All the security agencies have that at the back of their plan and they factor it in implementation. The general public should not be afraid of that at all. It’s not a new thing; it’s already in our schedule of activity”.
Speaking further on the Armed Forces operations, he said tremendous successes had been recorded in the various theatres of operation across the country.
He said troops in Northwest theatre scaled up kinetic and non-kinetic operations in the general areas of Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and adjoining states, leading to gradual restoration of overall human activities in the zone.
He added that the troops have continued to dominate the general area with clearance patrols, aggressive fighting patrols, raids, ambushes and confidence-building patrols in addition to several air bombardments of identified bandits’ locations and hideouts, which has made it possible for the conduct of farming and other activities in the zone.
“These operations also resulted in the rescue of kidnapped victims, recovery of rustled livestock, arrest of suspected armed bandits, informants and collaborators in addition to the recoveries of large cache of arms and ammunition, among others within the period,” he explained.
In the South-South zone, Enenche said troops of Operation Delta Safe discovered and deactivated 25 illegal refining sites in Rivers, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.
He noted that the troops also impounded 342,000 litres of product suspected to be illegally refined AGO.
The DHQ spokesman stated that the troops of subsidiary Operations Calm Waters RS II and Swift Response seized 141 bags of parboiled rice and also arrested boats involved in smuggling activities.
He said in the North-east, troops executed various kinetic operations, including clearance operations, aggressive patrols and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions, sustained air offensive operations as well as artillery and aerial bombardments on boko haram and ISWAP enclaves.
General Enenche, however, differed with some Nigerians on the misconstrued reintegration programme of repentant terrorists, which they dubbed as rewarding criminals for their evil acts.
He said Operation Safe Corridor, which is a Defence Headquarters-led non-kinetic multi-agency humanitarian operation established by the Presidency, designed to de-radicalise, rehabilitate and reintegrate willingly surrendered and repentant Boko Haram combatants, poses no threat to Nigerians.
He noted: “It is highly desirable at this moment to further explain some key points about De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Re-integration (DRR) programme in order to allay the fears of some members of the general public and reassure that these individuals were duly profiled and confirmed to be low risk repentant members who were ascertained to be innocent and forcefully conscripted to join the sect and are categorized as victims.
“Additionally, monitoring mechanisms have been put in place to monitor their activities in the society”.
The coordinator noted that troops of Operation Safe Haven and Whirl Stroke have continued to make progress.
He said the troops, during a drug operation, arrested seven suspects at the scene and recovered large quantity of substances suspected to be Cannabis Sativa and other illicit drugs.
He said the suspects were subsequently handed over to the Police for further action.
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