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Govt arrested, released UN bombing suspects in 2007

A report by the Associated Press, on Thursday, as revealed how incompetence, corruption and nepotism in the security agencies have helped the fundamentalist Islamic sect behind the recent bombings in the country to thrive.

Among other astounding claims, the report says that security officials in 2007, arrested, detained and later released the man who planned last Friday’s UN bombing. The report says the release of the UN bombing mastermind, named by the State Security Service as one Mamman Nur, and many terrorists arrested that year was facilitated by senior security officials. However, the report did not name the security agencies that arrested and released Nur.

Quoting an unnamed Nigerian senior security official, AP reports that the militants were caught with bombs, guns and lots of cash. It added that the terrorists were released because government was wary of antagonising powerful interests in the North.

“They were caught with explosive devices and other ammunitions. Some of them were also caught with large amount of cash,” the Nigerian official told AP.

Some of those arrested were said to have been planning to carry out attacks in the United States and on American interests in Nigeria. Investigators at the time said they had ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Somali terrorist organisation, Al-Shabab, but could not proceed because of the order given by top officials in the administration of the late President Umar Yar’Adua that they should be releassed.

“Top security officials in the administration of then President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim, released the rounded-up men shortly after their arrests, with some facing a few hasty sham trials,” the Nigerian security official, who spoke to AP, said.

The report says, “One of those men was Babagana Ismail Kwaljima, also known as Abu Summaya, who was arrested again days before the Aug. 26 bombing at the UN compound in Abuja that killed at least 23 people.

“The agency previously arrested him in October 2007 in the northern city of Kano during a roundup of suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operating in the country. AQIM, as the group is known, generally operates in Saharan nations north of Nigeria.

“The car used in the U.N. bombing was registered in the same area of Kano State where the terror suspects had been arrested only four years earlier, the official who spoke to the AP said.”

AP says it contacted the spokesperson of the State Security Service, Marilyn Ogar, but she declined to react to its findings.

The report also says “some 50 al-Shabab members were arrested in Nigeria recently for plotting attacks on Western targets, citing postings made to jihadist websites. Those arrests were not reported by Nigerian media or announced by security agencies.

“Other problems for Nigeria’s intelligence agencies came as it abandoned a US-assisted anti-terrorism program in late 2007 known as “Focal Point,” which saw the Nigerian government set up units in major cities to monitor suspected terrorists, the Nigerian official said. The units fell apart as agencies stocked them with friends who took advantage of trips, leaving the job of tracking suspects to local police authorities who knew nothing about the cases.

“Many saw the centers as opportunity for ‘their boys’ to go on overseas trips and make money,” the official said.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Daouda Toure, told journalists in Abuja on Thursday that the organisation had airlifted 14 victims of the bombing who had been on life support to South Africa for further treatment.

Explaining that arrangements had been put in place to help the family members of victims to travel to South Africa, Toure added that some of the affected family members had already been transported. Toure also said the UN Security Services and the UN country teams were on ground providing support and assistance to affected families.

He praised the Nigerian medical staff, especially doctors at the National Hospital, for doing a wonderful job stabilising the injured victims referred to it. He lamented that 80 percent of the injured were members of staff of the World Health Organisation. He, however, said it was premature to release their names because death certificates and other legal issues were involved.

Toure said, “This devastating attack has taken the lives of our colleagues and partners and maimed many people all of whom were in the building in pursuit of service to others.

“Their sacrifice will not be in vain; we will strive to pursue our work, the work for the people of Nigeria as proscribed in the UN Charter, which says ‘we the people’ we identify with the people, and only the people.

“The death toll as at today remains 23. Of the 31 injured, 14 had to be evacuated out of the country.

“The evacuation process has ended. This was for people whose lives were really under threat; they’ve been flown out of the country to South Africa.”

He explained that the choice of South Africa was based on the “availability of modern standard hospitals and equipment” in the country.

Toure said the UN was determined to continue to assist Nigeria deal with cholera outbreaks and with the provision of emergency supplies to distressed families as a result of natural or man-made disasters.

Also speaking, the Country Representative of UNICEF, Sumi Sakai, said one of the dead victims was working a document needed to release vital vaccines to tackle childhood diseases in northern Nigeria


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