Security agencies, including the Department of State Service (DSS) have revealed that the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) network operating within North-central and South-south zones of Nigeria were behind the recent killings in Benue State.
The agencies, in a report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, said they discovered this following arrest of several suspected attackers comprising Fulani herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other miscreants in the state.
According to the report, ISWA is using foreign terrorists and recruiting young men to fight and kill innocent persons to exacerbate tensions along the county’s ethnic, religious and regional fault lines.
A Presidency source, who disclosed this to State House reporters yesterday, said among those in custody were many, who spoke none of the languages native to Nigeria, but the French language.
The source, who pleaded anonymity, said all the reports submitted to Buhari indicated that “Security officials now fear an influx of other ISIS members into many parts of the country.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, confirmed that Buhari had been receiving “Reports upon reports on the situation in Benue and other states.”
Shehu, who said the DSS had recorded success lately, however noted that he had not been briefed on any of the reports submitted to the president.
But the source stated: “This is the first time that security officials have confirmed that the Islamic State in West Africa members are operating as a unit in Nigeria and the level of their penetration of the country.
“A good number of the Islamic State terrorists have been arrested not only in the Benue valley but significantly in several towns in Edo State, specifically in Akoko-Edo, Okpella and Benin as well as in Okene, in Kogi state.
“It is understood that the cell which has members in different parts of the country concentrates on recruiting young men to fight for the Islamic State in West Africa by unleashing the cold-blooded murder of innocent citizens.
“There was intelligence that they had planned several attacks here, before and during Christmas and the New Year. Their bombing targets included fuel depots, foreign missions and police and military establishments. Their network is very wide. But so much was achieved by the DSS, which had made a significant number of arrests in the last two months that helped to pre-empt those attacks. This helped to save Nigeria from the spate of major terrorist attacks witnessed elsewhere that were syndicated by ISIS worldwide.
“We are learning more and more about this complex and sophisticated network. This is the main reason why the secret service is not parading those suspects, so far arrested. It has become clear to us by now, that the challenge facing this country is a serious one.”