Nigerian army makes arrests in schoolgirl abductions
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Nigeria's military said Monday it had raided a Boko Haram "intelligence cell" and arrested its leader, a businessman "who participated actively in the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok", when 276 girls were taken from the town on April 14.
Of the 276 girls abducted, 57 managed to escape while 219 remain missing. The Islamists have since threatened to sell the girls.
“A terrorists’ intelligence cell headed by a businessman who participated actively in the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok has been busted by troops,” the defense ministry statement said.
The businessman was identified as Babuji Ya'ari, who is also a member of the Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force), which worked alongside the military in fighting the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency.
Ya’ari used his position in the Civilian JTF as a cover “while remaining an active terrorist”, a defense ministry spokesman, Major General Chris Olukolade, said in a statement.
Olukolade said information yielded by Ya’ari’s detention has already led to the arrests of two women also thought to be working for the Islamist group. Haj Kaka allegedly procured arms for the extremists while Hafsat Bako was described as a paymaster. Bako told authorities that Boko Haram operatives are paid a minimum of 10,000 naira (about $60) depending on the task, the statement said.
The military statement accused Ya'ari of not only spying for the Islamists but also planning the murder of the Emir of Gwoza in Borno state a month ago.
The military says Ya'ari also coordinated several of the attacks that have killed hundreds in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and birthplace of Boko Haram.
“Babuji has been coordinating several deadly attacks in Maiduguri since 2011, including the daring attacks on customs and military locations as well as the planting of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in several locations,” the defense ministry statement said.
There has been no independent confirmation of the military's claims.
Boko Haram's Islamist insurgency are blamed for killing thousands since 2009 but the first half of this year has been the bloodiest, with more than 2,000 people killed.
An attack on churches Sunday near Chibok blamed on Boko Haram gunmen killed 54 people, an official has said. Militants hurled explosives into churches, torched buildings and fired on worshippers as they tried to flee, residents said.
In late May, Boko Haram militants killed at least 48 people in separate overnight attacks on three Nigerian villages just hours after two car bombs ripped through the central city of Jos, leaving more than 100 dead.
A week later Boko Haram militants killed at least 35 more people in attacks on three villages in Borno state, near the border with Cameroon.
The militants have also frequently targeted Nigerian police and military installations. An attack on an army base and an adjacent police barracks in the northeastern town of Buni Yadi on May 27 killed at least 25 security personnel.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)