The man suspected to be the alleged brain behind the attack on a church in Madalla, Niger State on Christmas day, Habibu Bama, has been critically wounded and captured in Damaturu, military sources said yesterday.
The arrest came on a day the United States (US) designated Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram and two others as terrorists. The two others are Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi. But the US stopped short of putting the group as a whole on its terror list.
Military sources said the curfew imposed on Damaturu “paid off” because Bama was equally trapped in the town.
When the curfew was relaxed, he went out to the market together with two of his accomplices in order to buy food items, the source said.
“He bought Irish potatoes, yam and was about buying sachet water when he was captured along with two of his boys by some soldiers on patrol,” the source said.
“A soldier who was Bama’s neighbour during his military days saw him at the market and immediately alerted his colleagues,” he said.
He said Bama had attempted to snatch a gun from one of the soldiers but was overpowered. “He was shot in the leg and thereafter arrested,” he said.
Another source said Bama died from gunshot wounds, but that was not confirmed as at press time.
Bama is also suspected to have a hand in the planning and bombing of UN building in Abuja.
The State Security Servive named Bama as another suspect in the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church blast that killed at least 40 people on Christmas day. A top suspect, Kabiru Sokoto, was the first to be arrested.
In declaring Bama wanted few months ago the SSS said in a statement: “Habibu Bama is an ex-soldier from Bama, Borno State. He is also known by the following names: Habib Bama, Shuaibu Bama, and Habib Mamman.’
But a security source told Daily Trust that Habibu Bama is the prime suspect in the Madalla bombing, and not Kabiru Sokoto as the police earlier claimed.
Meanwhile, in placing Abubakar Shekau on its terrorist list, the US said he was the most visible of the group’s (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, commonly referred to as Boko Haram) leaders.
But the US stopped short of putting the group as a whole on its terror list.
“In the last 18 months, Boko Haram or associated militants have killed more than 1,000 people,” the State Department said in a statement.
The two other men were accused of close links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.
“Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in northern Nigeria, its primary area of operation,” the statement said, adding that most of the victims were “overwhelmingly civilian.”
The designation under E.O. 13224 blocks all of Shekau’s, Kambar’s and al-Barnawi’s property interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with or for the benefit of these individuals. These designations demonstrate the United States’ resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks. The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.
Initially, the statement said, the group had said it was fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria.
But a range of demands by different people have since been issued, including the release of its members from prison.
Boko Haram launched an uprising in 2009, leading to nearly a week of fighting that ended with a military assault that left some 800 people dead.
Just this week, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for suicide attacks on churches in Kaduna state on Sunday that left at least about 34 people dead. They also sparked reprisals by Christian mobs against mosques and Muslims that killed dozens.
Frustration over the government’s inability to stop attacks by the group has triggered warnings Shekau was seen as the second-in-command of Boko Haram during a 2009 uprising. The leader at the time, Mohammed Yusuf, was captured by soldiers and handed over to police. Yusuf was later killed when police claimed he was trying to escape, though rights groups have called it a summary execution.
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