Nigeria arrests businessman in connection with girls' abductions

Tuesday 01 July 2014 10.49
Troops found a Boko Haram intelligence cell led by a businessman
Troops found a Boko Haram intelligence cell led by a businessman

Nigerian troops have arrested a businessman suspected of being at the head of a Boko Haram intelligence network that helped plan the abduction of more than 200 school girls in the northeast, the military said.

The man had helped the Islamist militant group plan several attacks, including the killing of traditional ruler the Emir of Gwoza, it said in a statement.

The abduction in mid-April of 276 school girls, 219 of which remain in captivity, has become a symbol of the government's powerlessness to protect civilians from attack by the group.

Nigeria's military said it had broken up a Boko Haram intelligence cell and arrested its leader.

A defence headquarters statement said troops found a militants' intelligence cell headed by a businessman "who participated actively in the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok," in northeast Borno state on 14 April.

The businessman, who was also a member of a civilian youth group that worked along with the military, popularly known as Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force), allegedly used his position as a cover to work for the militants.

The statement accused the suspect of spying for the Islamists as well as spearheading the murder of Emir of Gwoza in Borno state a month ago.

He has been co-ordinating several deadly attacks in Maiduguri since 2011, including the attacks on customs and military locations in the town, a hotbed of the sect, it said.

There is no independent confirmation of the military claim.

Boko Haram Islamists are blamed for killing thousands since 2009, but the first half of this year has been the bloodiest stretch of the insurgency, with more than 2,000 people killed.

An attack on churches on Sunday near Chibok blamed on Boko Haram gunmen killed 54 people, an official has said.

They hurled explosives into churches, torched buildings and fired on worshippers as they tried to flee, residents said.