We’re not crushed – Shekau
Video, mere propaganda – Army
By Musa Umar Bologi, Abuja and Sadiq Abubakar, Maiduguri
Barely one week after the Nigerian military swept off the Boko Haram fighters from Sambisa Forest, indication has emerged that the arrest of its factional leader, Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, three months ago, may have largely contributed to the victory.
Al-Barnawi was some time ago declared the third’s most wanted terrorist in the world.
While President Muhammadu Buhari announced the successful routing of the insurgents last week, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Lucky Leo Irabor, told the world on Wednesday that the war against Boko Haram had been won.
While stressing the need to win the accompanying peace, General Irabor commended all security agencies for collectively working towards the dismantling of the forest.
A top source at the Department of State Service, said Al-Barnawi, the Islamic States of Iran and Syria (ISIS)-recognised leader of Boko Haram, was arrested some three months ago in Lokoja, Kogi state capital, and presently in its custody.
His dastardly acts earned him the United States Department of State’s tag of a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224 on June 21, 2012, with the country placing a $5million price for any information that could lead to his arrest.
The source said: “The suspect, who was responsible for major killings, kidnap of locals and foreigners between 2012 and 2015, is in our custody.
“In fact, when the news of the capture of this renowned wanted terrorist, hit the rest of the world, they have kept sending their officials to come and interrogate him in our custody. It is important to say here that we never left anything to chance in our preparation to get him out, giving his notoriety.
“In other word, a lot of preparation went into the eventual arrest of this suspect, which we actualised before the final military onslaught on the terrorists in Sambisa by the Nigerian troops.’’
But another security source said, although the military did a good job pulling down Sambisa, the arrest of Al-Barnawi contributed in no small measure, to the success of their mission.
“It was cheery news that the military pulled down the much dreaded Sambisa Forest, but we must not fail to realise that the arrest of Al-Barnawi which the DSS put under wrap from the prying eyes of the media over three months ago, played a crucial role.
“Remember, here we are talking of a globally recognised terrorist ranked the number three on the wanted list across the world. His link with the ISIS and other violent terrorist groups in the world, coupled with his reputation as being behind the murder of all expatriates kidnapped by the Boko Haram while the game lasted , when put together, then one can understand the role intelligence gathering really played in the overall success of the Nigerian troops.
“Then, one can better imagine what would have happened and how difficult this exercise would have been if this (intelligence) had really missed out,” explained our source.
In a similar crime bursting event, another source hinted on how the DSS foiled a planned terrorist attack on the US.
“About six months ago, we burst a terrorist attack that was to happen in the United States. This earned the service a letter of commendation. In fact, President Barack Obama placed a call to President Muhammadu Buhari to acknowledge what we did.
“We did not make it a media issue because before you know it, there will be editorials asking us whether we had addressed security challenges in Nigeria before helping the US,” said the DSS source.
Who is Al-Barnawi?
Although not much is known about him, but Al-Barnawi appeared in a Boko Haram video in January 2015 as the group’s spokesman. He was to later become the group’s factional leader in August 2016, courtesy of the ISIS.
His appointment followed the accusation of ‘sell-out’ against Abubakar Shekau, who succeeded the slain leader of the group, Mohammed Yusuf in 2002.
During his video appearance, Al-Barnawi decked a turban and his face was blurred out, in a posture suggesting a sit-down studio interview. Unlike Shekau his delivery in the Hausa language was considered and softly spoken.
Al-Barnawi was also known to warn that towns which resisted Boko Haram in its mission to create an Islamic state would be flattened, just as he never hid his opposition to democracy and foreign education.
At several fronts, he boasted that ISIS was still strong in the region, with a promise never to relent in fighting the West African governments.
I’m alive, says Shekau
Notwithstanding the major victory by the troops, Abubakar Shekau, a factional leader of the Boko Haram, has released a new video, claiming to be alive.
“We are safe. We have not been flushed out of anywhere. And tactics and strategies cannot reveal our location except if Allah wills by His decree,” Shekau said in the 25-minute video seen by French newswire, AFP on Thursday.
“If you indeed crushed us, how can you see me like this? How many times have you killed us in your bogus death?” he asked.
The AFP reported that it was not immediately clear when the new video was shot, but Shekau, who spoke in both Hausa and Arabic, claimed it was filmed on Christmas Day.
The latest video came two months after the sect leader released footage to deny military’s claims that he had been killed and mocked the Nigerian government.
But in a reaction, the Nigerian Army has described the purported video clip as mere propaganda aimed at creating fear in the mind of people and to remain relevant.
Army spokesperson, Brigadier-General Sani Kukasheka Usman, said in a statement that effort was ongoing to subject the video to further forensic analysis.
He reiterated that the army had captured and occupied the last known stronghold of the terrorists group in the Sambisa Forest.
“We would like to reassure the public that this video is nothing but mere terrorists propaganda aimed at creating fear in the mind of people and to remain relevant. Therefore, there is no cause for alarm, more so as concerted effort in clearing the vestiges of Boko Haram terrorists wherever they might be hiding, is still ongoing,” he said.
“Our gallant troops deployed in various parts of the north east have continued to intensify search for all persons associated with Boko Haram terrorist group with a view to bringing them to justice.”
Usman enjoined the public to go about their normal lawful business, remain vigilant and security conscious.
“They should also report any suspicious person or group of persons to security agencies,” he said.