But for his death, Habibu Bama, a top suspect in the Christmas Day Madalla bomb blast, would have boosted government’s counter-offensive against Boko Haram
In a week of intensive bombings in Kaduna and Yobe states, government scored a critical point in its counter offensive against Boko Haram last Thursday when security operatives arrested Habibu Bama, suspected to be the mastermind of the 2011 Christmas Day bomb attack on Saint Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, in Damaturu, capital of Yobe state. Bama ran out of luck when he went out with two of his aides to buy food items amidst the curfew imposed on the state capital.
According to security sources, Bama was trapped in Damaturu because of the curfew imposed on the town. He tried to use a window period to shop for food supplies and was sighted by a security operative, who had known him when he was in the army, while he was buying yams, Irish tomatoes and sachet water. Seeing himself surrounded by soldiers, Bama tried to snatch a gun and fight his way out but was overpowered and arrested. He was being treated for gunshot wounds until he died last Friday.
Apart from the Madalla bombing which killed at least 40 people, Bama is suspected to have had a hand in the August 26, 2011 bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja, as well as the suicide bombing at police headquarters and the bomb blasts at the Mogadishu Barracks, Abuja. Consequently, the State Security Services, SSS, declared him wanted. He was from Borno State and was variously known as Habib Bama, Shuaibu Bama, and Habib Mamman.
It is believed that Bama was in Damaturu to execute the series of attacks on churches in the state last week which led to the death of over 30 people. He was trapped in the 24-hour curfew placed on the town by the state government.
TELL’s investigation showed that the arrest of Bama lifted the spirits of security agencies fighting to overcome Boko Haram. It was not clear whether security agents were able to extract as much information as possible from him to help them decode the missing links in the efforts to neutralise the group. They also know that the group will reshuffle the cards to render any information from Bama useless.
Also last week, the United States, US, categorised Abubakar Shekau, whom they described as the most visible of Boko Haram leaders, and two others – Abubakar Kamabar and Khalid al-Barnawi – as global terrorists. However, the State Department stopped short of categorising Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation, as previously requested by Andrew Azazi, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, NSA.
The US statement read: “The Department of State designated Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar, and Khalid al-Barnawi as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. Shekau is the most visible leader of the Nigeria-based militant group Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, commonly referred to as Boko Haram. Khalid al-Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kambar have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation.”
According to the Department of State, “Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has carried out numerous attacks in northern Nigeria, its primary area of operation. In the last 18 months, Boko Haram or associated militants have killed more than 1,000 people. Boko Haram is credited with the August 26, 2011 attack on the United Nations building in Abuja that killed at least 23 people and wounded scores more. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for the December 25, 2011 attack on the Saint Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, that killed at least 35 and wounded dozens more. Boko Haram’s deadliest violence occurred on January 20, 2012 in Kano, Nigeria, with a series of attacks that killed more than 180 people. Boko Haram’s victims have been overwhelmingly civilian.”
The designation under E.O. 13224 blocks all of Shekau’s, Kambar’s and al-Barnawi’s property interests subject to US jurisdiction and prohibits US persons from engaging in transactions with or for the benefit of these individuals. “These designations demonstrate the United States’ resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks. The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.”
While security agencies, Christians and some Muslims feel that the group should have been categorised outright as a terrorist organisation, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, cautions against this because of the implications. Lateef Adegbite, secretary general of the Council, told State House correspondents last week, “How do they know who are Boko Haram and those who are not? The implication will be very serious. They may see someone like me with my long beard and think I am Boko Haram.... We are appealing to them to give Nigeria more time to dialogue with our people and we hope we will reintegrate them into our fold. We must see all these that are happening as a challenge and war against all Nigerian Muslims, Christians and non-believers. It is beyond religion and against the people of this country and the people of this country must ensure that it does not degenerate into the situation like Afghanistan, Somalia and Mali now.”
Similarly, last Thursday, the Joint Task Force on Operation Restore Hope paraded seven suspects in last Sunday’s attack on EYN Church at Biu, Borno State. The same day in Abuja, Justice Abdul Kafarti of an Abuja high court threatened to discharge nine Boko Haram suspects standing trial on terrorism charges for lack of diligent prosecution. He warned that September 18, 2012 would be the last adjournment date for the case, after which he would strike it out, unless the police show some seriousness.