Before Sunday’s advisory by US Embassy in Nigeria, security forces had been working hard to avert severe attacks on Abuja and its environs by terrorists loyal to the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an investigation by Daily Trust revealed.
Credible security sources said many terrorists and their collaborators who have been mapping and strategising on how to launch multiple attacks to attract global attention had been arrested in Abuja and neighbouring communities.
The sources said the advisory issued by the US Embassy in Abuja on Sunday was to emphasise the obvious truth that terrorists and other criminal elements have established several cells, especially in the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
They said the terrorists were receiving “guidance” from their superiors living within and outside Nigeria on how to perfect “the massive onslaught on the symbol of authority” to prove that they were still strong and could attack anywhere.
It was learnt that their influx into Abuja was sequel to massive aerial reconnaissance and ground operations by Nigerian troops in the far northern Borno bordering Chad, Niger and Cameroon and the Alagarno and Sambosa forests in North East, as well as bombardments in forested areas in parts of Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara states all in North West that led to the destruction of many cells and bonkers of the terrorists.
Some of our sources said yesterday that some ISWAP commanders and foot soldiers have melted into the civilian population in and around Abuja perfecting plans to launch attacks about the same time.
The sources said most embassies in Nigeria were aware of this and therefore the announcement by the US Embassy might just be one of such advisories as others must have told their citizens quietly to be on the watch.
The US Embassy in Nigeria had warned Americans in the country to be cautious of their movement in response to what it called “elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja.”
In the security alert issued on Sunday, the US advised its citizens to avoid all non-essential travels or movements, stay alert and avoid crowds.
“The advisory is true but we have been working on the issue for months, we have been arresting suspects and they are revealing a lot to us,” one of our sources, said.
“We have gone far in securing not only the FCT but Nigeria at large…The terrorists have no hiding place anymore because we are tracking and picking them.
“We know all their antics. Many of them are working as mechanics, tailors, carpenters, labourers and even experts in some fields…We know what is happening,” he said.
Kingpins picked around FCT
Daily Trust reports that about two weeks ago, two high-profile terrorists were located at the Tipper garage, along the Kubwa Express Road by Jahi District and security operatives put them on their radar.
And on Thursday, October 20, one Abubakar Dan Borno, an ISWAP kingpin who fled from the Sambisa Forest, was picked at Mararaba, a suburb of Abuja in Nasarawa State after days of trailing. The suspect was reportedly handed over to the military and taken to the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for interrogation.
Our correspondent reports that intelligence has shown that some of the terrorists targeting Abuja live in Kaduna, Kano and other north-western states and only come to Abuja from time to time to have face-to-face interaction with the foot soldiers they planted.
Sources said one Abubakar Musa, an ISWAP logistics facilitator, who was picked yesterday, was trailed and arrested at the Falgore village in Tudun Wada LGA of Kano State.
It was learnt that many others were being trailed and picked as part of efforts to break the circle working hard to wreak havoc on the FCT and other major towns across Nigeria.
“There are many reasons for the desperation by the terrorists,” another source told the Daily Trust last night.
“The first is to show the world that they are still strong and very much around even though this claim is questionable considering that they have been checkmated and many of their cells destroyed.
“Another source is to simply embarrass the government. You know that President Buhari has said that he will bequeath a safe country by May 2023. Governor El- Rufai also few days ago said they have recorded many days without attacks in Kaduna. These are good stories that those against the Nigerian State would not like to hear,” he said.
New security measures around Abuja
Daily Trust reports that security has been beefed up in many places in the FCT. Less than 48 hours after the US Embassy raised the red alert, security operatives from the Nigerian Air Force, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Immigration Services have beefed up security in the nation’s capital.
Our correspondents observed yesterday that fighter and surveillance jets were on the air mapping out potential hideouts of the terrorists, who were planning to wreck havoc. A military officer, who did not want his name in print, explained that the security operatives were already on red alert following an order ‘from the above.’
“Following orders from the above, we, in collaboration with DIA, NIA, DSS and other security forces, have stepped up our games. We will tackle those criminals,” the senior military officer told Daily Trust.
Our correspondents who moved around on Monday also observed heavy deployment of security personnel at soft targets like entry points to the city centre as well as churches, mosques, recreational and business centres.
Soldiers were also in the early hours of Monday deployed near the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.They were seen mounting checkpoints before the entrance of the airport, which restricted the free flow of vehicles.There was also a heavy presence of policemen in the Asokoro area of Abuja, close to the ECOWAS building.
Residents in the FCT, including diplomats, have been increasingly worried about insecurity after a mass jailbreak from Kuje in July, a prison on the outskirts of the city.
The incident, in which more than 400 inmates including dozens of suspected bandits escaped, prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to say he was “disappointed” with his intelligence services.
There was also an attack on personnel of the Presidential Guard, who were on patrol in the Bwari axis of the territory, killing some of the operatives.
There has also been an increase in the activities of bandits operating in most of the satellite towns in the territory, especially around the Abaji, Kuje and Kwali axis.
Daily Trust reports that there have been no fewer than 171 reported cases of kidnappings in the nation’s capital from April till now with about 54 deaths.
Credible sources said while some of the kidnappings were perpetrated by sundry criminals, others were by Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters looking for money.
The police and military said they had beefed up security in and around the city, which is surrounded by mountainous and forested areas and difficult to patrol.
Just last week, troops of the Nigerian Military attached to ‘Operation Restore Sanity’ raided a livestock market hills located in Abuja Municipal Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.
The troops, according to the military high command, arrested one suspected criminal with packs of substances suspected to be hard drugs at the market.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Musa Danmadami, said at least two suspected informants and bandits collaborators, who were major suppliers of fuel and other sundry items to the bandits were arrested at Kwaita village in Kwali Area Council of the FCT based on intelligence.
Tight security at government offices in satellite towns
Our correspondents report that there was also tight security within government offices located across satellite towns of the FCT.
There were thorough checks on motorists entering Immigration’s passport office located along Dukpa road, Gwagwalada, National Mathematical Centre, Sheda, along the Abuja-Lokoja highway, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada.
Also, there were thorough checks at the army checkpoint at Giri along the Airport Road, Zuba-Kubwa Express Way and at the Abaji- Abuja-Lokoja highway, as vehicles were completely stopped for a search.
Early yesterday, police patrol teams were seen keeping vigil on the Zuba Central Motor Park, Wazobia popular park in Gwagwalada, along the Abuja-Lokoja highway, while passengers who came with their luggage were thoroughly searched before boarding vehicles.
There were similar reports from Bwari as there was intensive military check-up at the Defence College near Ushafa, along the Dutsen -Bwari Road.
There were also heavy checks at the entrances of the Law School’s headquarters in Bwari as well as the head office of the Joint Admissions & Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Police launch counter-terrorism exercise
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, yesterday announced the immediate commencement of a counter-terrorism Incident Simulation Exercise codenamed “Operation Darkin Gaggawa”.
He said the exercise will hold within the force headquarters and the Police Officers Wives Association School opposite the Force Headquarters, Abuja, between today (Tuesday) and Wednesday.
According to him, the exercise will involve the diversion of traffic, use of blank ammunition, and other operational manpower and assets, and is designed to improve interoperability and synergy between different Units and Formations of the Force in response to terrorist incidents and other violent crimes. The IG ordered the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, heads of tactical squads domiciled in the FCT, and other State Command CPs to restrategiSe security management within their jurisdictions.
The top cop said the force headquarters would continually avail them with the required support, logistics and deployments necessary for providing safety to all and sundry in Nigeria, adding that it would work closely with other security agencies.
“The NPF will continually work with other security agencies to make every part of Nigeria safe, especially the FCT,” the police chief said in a statement issued on his behalf by the force spokesman, Olumuyiwa Adejobi.
The police also allayed the fears of the general public not to panic at the sounds of explosives and gunshots during the exercise.
FCTA directs installation of CCTV in public places
There was a special security meeting by officials of the FCT Administration and some security chiefs in the territory.
Daily Trust learnt that shortly after the meeting on Thursday, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) directed that all public places within the nation’s capital be provided with Close Circuit Television (CCTV) without further delay.
The Coordinator of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC)), Umar Shuaibu, who spoke after the meeting, said the measure was to check the activities of criminals in the nation’s capital. He listed the affected public places to include government offices, schools, health facilities, recreational and motor parks, mosques, churches, organised private offices and other places where people converge.
He said the administration was concerned about the security situation in the country and would from time to time take security measures to protect lives and property.
Residents ask government to be proactive
Some residents of the territory, who spoke with Daily Trust, expressed fear over the US alert, appealing to relevant authorities to, as matter of urgency, put in place security measures in case of an eventuality.
Mr Ayuba Shedrack, a resident of Gwagwalada, appealed to the federal government to take the alert by the US serious by putting the security apparatus in a proactive position.
Another resident, Mrs Blessing Ebuka Nwachukwu, specifically appealed to the FCT administration to, as a matter of urgency, put in place security measures at worship centres, parks, schools, markets and other public places.
By Hussein Yahaya, Idowu Isamotu, Abubakar S. Isah & Seun Adeuyi