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Five Boko Haram bombers arrested in Port Harcourt •Army puts formations on the red alert
Five members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, suspected to be behind a plan to bomb government formations in Port Harcourt have been arrested by the army.
Our correspondent learnt that the five suspects were arrested in the oil city last month and were being detained at 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
Investigations revealed that the men of the Military Intelligence in the brigade apprehended the culprits with Improvised Explosive Devices, the type that had been used by the Islamic sect for devastating attacks in Abuja and other parts of the North.
According to a senior military source, who pleaded anonymity, investigations have showed that the suspects were on a mission to carry out a bomb attack on the Port Harcourt Brigade and oil installations on December 25, 2011, the same day as the tragic Madalla killings.
Army interrogators reportedly found out that the aborted bombing of the Port Harcourt Brigade was planned to coincide with the devastating one in Madalla
The source added that the military authorities had been silent on the arrest, considered a major breakthrough, because of the need to ensure the success of the search for the members of the sect.
Incidentally, the six members were arrested a day before the bombing of the St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State on Christmas Day.
A source, who confided in one of our correspondents, said military interrogators were able to extract “valuable information” from the five men.
urther investigations by our correspondent revealed that three of the arrested terror suspects were Hausa Fulani, one a Yoruba Muslim and the other a South-South Islamic convert from Calabar, Cross River State.
Our correspondent gathered that a soldier, who had been arrested alongside the five suspects, was found to be innocent and was released to go at the end of the investigations.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the 2 Brigade Command, Port Harcourt, Lieutenant Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, confirmed the arrest of the suspects.
Iliyasu, who spoke in a telephone interview on Friday, disclosed that the matter had been referred to the appropriate authorities for further investigation.
“The matter has been referred to the appropriate authorities,” the army spokesman, who did not make further comment on the arrest of the suspects, said.
Earlier on Thursday, the Commander of the 2 Brigade Nigerian Army Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Brigadier General Yusuf Buratai, confirmed that security agencies in the state foiled an attempt to bomb the army formation, Bougavilla Hotel and the Shell facility in the state capital.
“Through the collaborative efforts of the Brigade and DSS, an attempt to bomb Port Harcourt Barrack (Bori Camp), Bougainvilla Hotel and Shell facility along Aba Road was foiled on night of December 24, 2011.
“The suspects were arrested in the barracks as well as other locations within Port Harcourt city. They had materials for making Improvised Explosive Devices capable of causing heavy damage,” Buratai noted.
The interrogation of the suspects is coming just as the FG on Friday set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the escape of Kabiru Umar (a.k.a. Kabiru Sokoto), the alleged mastermind of the Madalla Christmas Day church bombing that claimed at least 44 lives, from custody of the police.
The Minister of Police Affiars, Mr. Caleb Olubolade, had said that the panel, which is made up of senior police ministry officials and military officers, had been given a week to submit its findings on how Sokoto managed to slip his handlers while being transferred for interrogation in Abuja.
he Inspector-General Hafiz Ringim has already been given a query over the escape of Sokoto, who is accused of belonging to the sect.
The minister added that the IG’s response to the query was being considered by the panel.
Already, the police have offered a N50m bounty for information leading to Sokoto’s capture.
Meanwhile, military authorities have issued a repeated directive to all military formations in the country to be on the red alert and be holistic in the screening of visitors as a result of the simultaneous bomb blasts that rocked Kano city on Friday evening.
The screening process is to involve all military personnel and cars that are painted in military colours.
part from using the newly acquired bomb detectors in screening vehicles visiting the military formations, military personnel are also directed to ensure a physical screening of all visitors.
A highly-placed military source said, “Yes, there is a directive to that effect, anybody going into our barracks would be thoroughly screened to avoid any incident of bomb attacks.
“Yes, it is true that bombs can explode anywhere but we are taking precautionary measure.”
Also, top military personnel, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said it was not unexpected for the military to put its men on the red alert.
The source added that the Kano blast had reinforced the fact that members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect were after security agencies and agents.
When our correspondent contacted the Director of Army Public Relations, Maj. Raphael Isa, he said it was his prayer that army formations were not attacked by the sect.
“I pray that they don’t try to attack our formation; that is my reaction,” he said.
On Friday, an eyewitness at the scene of the police headquarters that was bombed said the bomber pulled up near the building on a motorbike, got off and ran towards the building holding a bag.
“We tried to stop him but he ran in forcefully with his bag. All of a sudden there was a blast. You can see that the building is damaged,” said a policeman at the scene.
A second blast hit Kano’s Immigration office. There were conflicting reports on the number of bombs, with accounts of between four and 20 blasts.
n January 2, 2012, a purported spokesman for Boko Haram warned that the group would confront soldiers and threatened Christians living in the country’s North.
The threat from the spokesman gave southerners living in the North three days to leave the region just after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in some local government areas of some hard-hit states.
It also warned military troops that Boko Haram would confront them.
Reacting to the threat, the National Security Adviser, Owoye Azazi, said, “I can assure you the security forces are up to it.”