Intelligence report presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by the Department of State Services, DSS, and other security agencies indicates that the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA, operating within some North Central and South-South zones of Nigeria may have carried out recent killings recorded in Benue state and other parts of the country.
A top government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told journalists on Sunday that the security agencies told Buhari that the ISWA network is using foreign terrorists and recruiting young men to fight and kill innocent persons “ostensibly to exacerbate tensions along the county’s ethnic, religious and regional fault lines”.
The Punch reports that the source stated that this came to the fore following the arrest of several suspected attackers made up of Fulani herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other miscreants in Benue State.
Among those in custody, according to the Presidency source, are many suspects who cannot speak any Nigerian languages, but are fluent in French language.
He added that this is the first time that security officials would be confirming that the ISWA members are operating as a unit in Nigeria.
According to the source, “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 report 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 preempt those attacks.”