Boko Haram ‘leader’ arrest boosts anti-terror ops

A man shows the picture of his niece among portraits of missing girls published in a local daily to mark the second anniversary of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists during a rally in Lagos, on April 13, 2016.  Islamist fighters abducted 276 girls from their dormitories on the night of April 14, 2014. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the hours that followed but 219 are still being held. Elsewhere in Nigeria, protest marches were planned as the culmination of a week-long series of events organised by the #BringBackOurGirls movement to renew calls for the girls' release.  / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Kano / AFP

Nigeria’s security services have hailed the arrest of the leader of the Boko Haram splinter group Ansaru, Khalid Al Barnawi, saying it will lead to them to other senior commanders.
“The arrest of Barnawi is a huge success and will have a profound effect on counter-terrorism operations in Nigeria and beyond,” one security source said.
“He is a known transnational terrorist and the backbone of all Al-Qaeda affiliate groups in West Africa.” Barnawi, designated a global terrorist by the US since 2012, was detained on April 1 with three others in the Kogi state capital, Lokoja, and found with four Thuraya satellite phones. The phones “provided several leads” to “high-profile Boko Haram and Ansaru elements” in the capital, Abuja, Lokoja and the central city of Jos, said another source.
“This has been our biggest breakthrough against terrorism in Nigeria ever,” said a third. “We still have other high-ranking terrorists on our radar based on the information gathered from the phones of Barnawi and his three comrades. We will rope them in at the right time,” he added.
Change in dynamic
Barnawi is certainly a major prize for Nigerian intelligence, the Department of State Services (DSS), which called him “a trained terrorist commander” who also recruited for Al-Qaeda affiliates.
He is accused of masterminding a string of kidnappings of Westerners between 2011 and 2013.
“This arrest is a major milestone in the counter-terrorism fight,” the DSS said in a statement on April 9, with an accompanying mugshot of Barnawi. But while security analysts agree he is the most high-profile capture since the start of the insurgency in 2009, it remains unclear what effect it will have on operations on the ground.
Boko Haram has been pegged back by an aggressive fightback from the Nigerian military since January last year, losing territory and its capacity to mount conventional attacks. President Muhammadu Buhari has gone so far as to say the militants were “technically” defeated, even if suicide and bomb attacks have continued in northeast Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger.
Yan St-Pierre, from the Modern Security Consulting group, however, said Barnawi, who trained in Sudan, Afghanistan and with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria, was “influential”.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend