Nigeria has deployed forces in northern Mali to flush out the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups who have taken control of the vast desert territory.
Barely 48 hours after the Mali mission, terror operations increased in the northern part of the country with not less four attacks in three days leading to the death of about 30 people.
While claiming responsibility for the attack on Mali-bound soldiers in Kogi State and the kidnap of a French citizen, Francis Colump, in Katsina State, the sect said its actions were based on France and Nigeria’s major role in the attack on Islamists in northern Mali.
Security agents told SUNDAY PUNCH that the sects, particularly JAMBS, planned to protest Nigeria’s participation in the Mali war, in the form of bomb attacks and kidnap of expatriates. It was learnt that while JAMBS would concentrate on foreign targets, Boko Haram would focus on local targets.
A top intelligence officer, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said, “The survival of JAMBS and Boko Haram depends on the survival of the Islamists in Mali. If the terrorists in Mali are wiped out, that is the end of the ones in Nigeria and that is why Nigeria is at the fore-front of the Mali war.
“We have reports that the violent sects here have been instructed to increase their terror acts and it is not surprising. That is why they have become very restive in the North. We are at the border to intercept whatever arms they are planning to bring in. We also have plain-clothes security men in the North monitoring activities. We are ready for them.”
The Deputy Public Relations Officer of the police, Frank Mba, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the police were aware of the “plans” of the sects, but he declined to provide details. Mba stated that the war in Mali was necessary to put an end to terrorism in that country.
“All the terror groups in Nigeria receive major financing and training from Mali and it is expected that they will not be pleased with the war. They get support from Mali and we know they are not happy we are with the war, but Nigerians cannot to be held hostage. We are ready for them. We owe Nigerians a duty to be in Mali to totally eradicate terrorism from Nigeria,” he said.
Similarly, the President of the Northern Civil Society Coalition, Mr. Shehu Sani, stated that the war in Mali posed a security challenge because JAMBS and other sects that are sympathetic to Malian Islamists would target countries that contributed troops to the multinational force battling Islamists in the country.
“Nigeria has to cover its tracks at home. We are vulnerable to reprisals. There is no doubt that terrorists in Mali will inflict damage on countries participating in the war,” he said.
Meanwhile, JAMBS, has launched a massive recruitment drive in the North. Reliable sources in the security services told one of our correspondents that the sect aimed to be “bigger and deadlier” than the better known Boko Haram sect.
In recent times, JAMBS, which has been described as an international terror group, has claimed responsibility for some headline-grabbing terrorist acts. It was learnt that the ongoing recruitment by the sect, targets young persons, mainly men, indoctrinated to fight for the cause of the sect.
Even though the recruitment is restricted to the North for now, SUNDAYPUNCH gathered that the sect had plans to stretch its search for recruits to other parts of the country.
Sani said JAMBS was more dangerous than Boko Haram and that “foreign interests have much to fear from the new group.”
“JAMBS is in competition with Boko Haram and it won’t be difficult for them to get recruits in a society of millions of disenfranchised youths. It will be easy for them to get volunteers from the lower rung of the society. Its agenda is different from Boko Haram’s. The group is strictly toeing the instructions of the al-Qaeda which is to target foreign groups and persons.
“What makes this group very dangerous is their mobility. You cannot say this is where they are located. They operate a mobile command and no part of Nigeria is immune to their acts. If they can attack troops in Kogi, that tells you the nature of the group.
“It is difficult to estimate their actual number because they are not in a particular position, but I can tell you that they have high capacity to inflict lethal damage and to also carry our operations without being caught.” he said
Sani said the sect was not interested in “local matters” like Boko Haram.
“The Federal Government needs to know that this new group is interested in issues of global significance like events happening in Mali, the Middle East and in the Maghreb. The kidnapping of expatriates is an indication of what this group is about. They have a clear intention to pursue the agenda of the al-Qaeda. They are charting a new course beyond the shores of Nigeria,” he added.
Mba however said it would be difficult for the sect to have a base in the North.
“We can’t tell you what we know about JAMBS. But it is important that we point out that it will be difficult for them to have a base in the North due to the heavy presence of the police and the military,” he said.
The Federal Government had said the deployment of Nigerian troops in Mali was necessary to protect Africa from terrorism.