Man held over Nigeria girls' kidnap
Published 01/07/2015 | 02:16
Nigerian troops have arrested a businessman accused of "participating actively" in Boko Haram's mass abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from a town.
Defence Ministry s pokesman Major General Chris Olukolade said Babuji Ya'ari headed a "terrorists' intelligence cell" for the Islamic extremists while masquerading as a member of the self-defence Youth Vigilante Group.
That confirms suspicions that the vigilantes have been infiltrated by Boko Haram. Soldiers have said that some of their comrades also belong to Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremist group.
"The arrest of the businessman has also yielded some vital information and facilitated the arrest of other members of the terrorists' intelligence cell who are women," Maj Gen Olukolade said. He did not say when the arrests were made or how many people were arrested.
He said that since 2011, Ya'ari has co-ordinated several deadly attacks on the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, and spearheaded the May 2014 assassination of the emir of Gwoza, a religious and traditional ruler who was targeted for speaking out against Boko Haram's extremism.
One arrested woman, Hafsat Bako, confessed to co-ordinating the payroll for operatives paid a minimum of 10,000 naira (about £32) a job, the defence ministry said.
Boko Haram was responsible for the April 2014 kidnapping of 273 girls from a boarding school in Chibok, in Nigeria's north east. Dozens escaped but 219 schoolgirls remain missing.
The mass abduction sparked international outrage and demands for the girls' release under the Twitter hashtag BringBackOurGirls.
The extremists took control of a large swathe of north-eastern Nigeria last year where they declared an Islamic caliphate. This year they became the West African franchise of the Islamic State (IS) group.
As their attacks spread across borders, a multi-national army from Nigeria and neighbouring countries mobilised and this year drove Boko Haram out of towns. Suicide bombings and attacks on villages continue.