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Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 - Nigeria

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Publication Date 30 April 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 - Nigeria, 30 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48196c9a1a.html [accessed 19 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The apprehensions and trials of extremists by the Nigerian government seemed to indicate not just recognition of potential threats to itself and its citizens, but a responsiveness and willingness to act to protect American interests, including facilities and personnel. These arrests also suggested some degree of cooperation and facilitation among extremist groups in the Sahel, which were made possible by porous borders with minimal controls, and the logistical difficulties inherent in patrolling the Sahara desert. Since 2005, the Nigerian Taliban (which has no connection to the Taliban of Afghanistan) has been suspected of having connections to AQIM in Mali and AQ affiliates. To date, no conclusive links have been definitively proven, although bin Ladin went on record in 2003 saying that Nigeria was fertile ground for action.

In December 2006, Mohammed Yusuf, a Maiduguri-based imam and alleged "Nigerian Taliban" leader was charged with five counts of illegally receiving foreign currency. His trial was still ongoing at the end of 2007.

Also in December 2006, Mohammed Ashafa of Kano was charged with receiving funds in 2004 from two AQ operatives based in Lahore, Pakistan to "identify and carry out terrorist attacks" on American residences in Nigeria. Deported from Pakistan for alleged ties to AQ, and said to have undergone terrorist training in Mauritania, Ashafa was charged in a Nigerian court with recruiting 21 fighters who were sent to Camp Agwan in Niger for terrorist training with AQIM. Ashafa also stood accused of being a courier for AQ from 2003 to 2004, who passed coded messages from Pakistan to Nigerian Taliban members on how to carry out terrorist activities against American interests in Nigeria. In addition, Nigerian authorities alleged that Ashafa's home was used as an AQ safe house, and that he rendered logistical and intelligence support to AQ operatives.

On January 16, 2007, Mohammed Bello Ilyas Damagun, a Nigerian cleric described by prosecutors as a primary sponsor of the Nigerian Taliban, was arraigned on three counts of terrorism. Damagun was accused of receiving the sum of 300,000 USD from Sudanese extremists or an AQ affiliate in Sudan "with the intent that said money shall be used in the execution of acts of terrorism." He also allegedly sent three young men to train with AQIM in Mauritania. The final count in Damagun's indictment was for aiding terrorist activities in Nigeria. This trial was ongoing with the defendant out on bail. These trials were still in progress due to a combination of procedural appeals, lengthy adjournments, and the additional time necessary to translate the proceedings from English to Hausa and back.

There was an attack in April that was likely perpetrated by the Nigerian Taliban, however this was not proven. On April 17, a police station in Panshekera, a small village outside Kano city, was attacked by militants subsequently described by the media as the "Nigerian Taliban," though the exact identities of the militants and their ideological affiliations (if any) remain unknown. While reports are conflicting, it was widely believed that the attackers were targeting the state and its uniformed security.

On July 27, the Government of Nigeria introduced e-passports containing a data chip, which will allow for easier passport authentication and fraudulent documentation detection. Besides enhanced security, the system will provide the country's first electronic database of biometric information.

The U.S. Embassy issued a warden message to American citizens on September 7, advising that American and other Western interests in Lagos and Abuja, both official and commercial, were at risk for terrorist attack. In an October 31 press report about the arrest of two men in Kano, "a senior officer" of the Nigerian State Security Service said that the men detained were the individuals whose activities had prompted the U.S. warden message.

On November 12, Nigerian law enforcement announced the arrests in Kano, Kaduna, and Yobe states of at least 10 suspected terrorists with alleged ties to AQIM, which included the two men from the October 31 report. On November 22, five of these individuals were charged with conspiracy and planning to commit a terrorist act. Two were also charged with attempted murder. The defendants were denied bail and the case was adjourned. The others were allegedly in custody, undergoing interrogation. Local news reports described a collaborative effort between Nigerian and American intelligence services.

The Sultan of Sokoto, the supreme Muslim authority in the country, has stated "There is no AQ cell of Taliban in Nigeria." The Sultan received information from a longstanding network of traditional local and regional leaders (emirs), and maintained that it would be extremely difficult for terrorist groups to operate without detection by this network. Nonetheless, poverty and unemployment, especially acute in the Muslim-majority north, helped create a climate potentially conducive to the radicalization of marginalized individuals.

In September 2005, a draft antiterrorism bill was approved by the Nigerian cabinet and sent to the National Assembly. The bill provided for sentences of up to 35 years for those convicted of a terrorist offense. Membership in a banned organization carried lighter jail sentences that could be replaced by a fine of up to 50,000 naira (400 USD). The bill was withdrawn, however, the day of its second reading in the Senate due to opposition from northern Senators who argued that the motivation for such a bill was anti-Muslim sentiment.

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