A terrorist organisation, Darus Salam, dislodged in Niger State over 11 years ago, has re-emerged in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State in North Central, about 140km from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The group was discovered on Wednesday, August 26 during a clearance patrol by troops of Operation Whirl Stroke following an intelligence report.
What appeared like a bomb-making factory was also discovered by the military while some members of the group, including their women and children, surrendered.
The military said Thursday that the group was dislodged after intensive intelligence gathering as part of efforts to liberate the North Central part of the country that suffered serious security breaches of late.
Daily Trust recalled that in 2009, over 3, 500 members of the Darus Salam religious sect were evacuated from their enclave in a location 30 kilometres away from Mokwa, Niger State.
The incident happened shortly after the fight between Boko Haram members and Nigerian security forces in Maiduguri, Borno State, which left nearly 1,000 people dead.
Experts spoken to on Thursday expressed worry that it appeared the group was amassing weapons ahead of imminent attacks, a clear departure from how they met in Niger State in 2009.
How military discovered Nasarawa enclave
A statement from the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said in continuation of aggressive clearance operations aimed at riding the North-Central zone of armed banditry and other forms of criminality, the troops who busted the terrorist’s cell, recovered explosives, arms and ammunition.
“Following aggressive intensive kinetic operations at identified bandits’ enclaves, not less than 410 members of the Darul Salam terrorist group, including women and children, surrendered to the troops of Operation Whirl stroke and other security agencies deployed at Uttu in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State,” Enenche said.
He said in the course of the operation, troops recovered several Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) making materials at the location including two scales, six rocket launcher bombs, one bag of fertilizer, half bag of gun powder, ten locally made hand grenades, one Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) bomb fuse, one locally made Rocket Launcher, 13 Improvised rocket bombs, amongst others.
He said the camp was subsequently destroyed while troops were combing the surrounding forests for fleeing members of the sect.
Our correspondent reports that apart from Kwara, all the remaining five states in the North Central have been facing one security problem or the other going by different names.
About four months ago, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State expressed worry over the appearance of Darus Salam sect and attributed kidnappings and violent crimes in the state to the group.
The Operation Whirl Stroke, which has various security agencies was established in 2018 to curb vices in North Central states.
Daily Trust recalled that when the group was dislodged in 2009 in Niger, its leader at the Malam Bashir Abdullahi Sulaiman told this newspaper that they were not violent.
“We face Allah with all our actions.
“We are no threats.
“We’ve been living in this town for 16 years now.
“Let them come and investigate if for one day any of us has ever been arrested on any criminal or civil unrest.
“Our aim is to practise the proper ethics of Islam without associating with the sinful world.
“That was why we migrated from various states down here.
“Here, we abhor alcoholism, brothels, lesbianism, homosexuality, fornication, adultery and all sorts of cultural, religious, economical corruption.
“Our aim is not to infringe on the rights of other people.
“They have their rights to live and we have our own too.
“After all, there’s no compulsion in religion.
“Let us be clear, we did not dissociate ourselves from the Niger State government facilities.
“We refer our sick ones to their hospitals if their cases are above the knowledge of our medical team.
“Our doctors profess Islamic medicines like using honey and other herbs originated from the teachings of Muhammad (SAW).
“Four years ago, the SSS and other security operatives from Abuja visited us and conducted a thorough search into our houses with the motive to find any incriminating weapon, but nothing of such was found with us.
“That confirmed to government that we are peaceful and not in any way violent or threatening the peace of anybody; they made us to sign an undertaking not to be violent, to be law-abiding and we did that.
“We have a copy of that undertaking and they have theirs.
When asked from where and what made them inhabit the area, he said, he and 20 others together with their families from Kano decided to migrate to the town and sought the permission of the village head of Masha in order to practise their religion without interference and corruption.
He added that their population grew by the day and their total number has so far reached 4,000, including women and children.
Why radical groups are re-emerging – Expert
Security expert, Salihu Bakhari said violent and less violent groups would keep re-emerging unless Nigerian security and intelligent system is repositioned to remain responsive at all times.
“Our security operatives are doing their best but it is not complete to dislodge a group and then forget about it especially when the members were released because nothing implicating was found with them.
“They are the same people with the same antics that would appear somewhere,” he said.
“I vividly remember that some members of Darus Salam arrested in Niger 11 years ago were later taken back to Kebbi and other states in the North West.
“We have not heard anything about them until recently.
“I was told that some of them joined the Boko Haram sect.
“And here we are now; the same Darus Salam has appeared in Nasarawa,” he said.
Another security expert who does not want his name mentioned, said the group’s target could be the FCT.
“The village where they established their camp in Nasarawa State is less than 140 kilometres to Abuja.
“This is significant.
“It is gratifying that they have been discovered and dislodged.
“Security operatives should keep an eye, they should continue gathering intelligence so that all their cells would be destroyed,” he said.
Military arrests 155 bandits in North West
Also yesterday, the Nigerian military said a total of 155 bandits were arrested by the military during operations in the North West Zone of the country in August.
General Enenche, who made this known during the weekly press briefing in Abuja on military operations across the country noted that this week’s briefing covered the entire month.
“Within the period, a total of 155 bandits were arrested, no fewer than 25 armed bandits killed and over 1000 livestock were recovered in this zone of the country.”
He also said troops of operation Sahel Sanity deployed at Daki Takwas on August 20, 2020, conducted a snap roadblock and intercepted a Toyota Corolla car, adding that after a diligent search on the vehicle, troops discovered 11 locally made rifles and 150 live cartridges concealed in different parts of the vehicle.
He said preliminary investigation revealed that the dangerous cargo was heading to Kofar Dinya in Bukkuyum LGA of Zamfara State.
He said five men were arrested in connection to the illegal firearms and that a repentant bandit leader named Bornon Kejo willingly surrendered to troops and submitted two AK-47 Rifles and two AK 47 Rifle magazines at Zurmi in Zurmi LGA of Zamfara State.
He noted that troops on August 23, 2020, conducted an intelligence-based operation leading to the raid of an illegal mining site located along Gadan Zaima – Zuru Road in Bukuyyum LGA of Zamfara State, which also served as bandits’ hideout.
He said during the operation, 150 suspects were arrested and arms and ammunition were recovered, adding that preliminary investigation revealed that aside from sabotaging the nation’s economy, banditry was being financed through these illegal mining activities.
FG addressing security challenges – Monguno
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, said yesterday that he briefed the Council of State on the general security situation in the country, especially the internal and external threats facing the nation and efforts currently underway to mitigate the challenges confronting us.
The NSA spoke on the approval of the setting of National Centre for control of small and light weapons to be domiciled in his office.
He said the challenges of manpower deficiency, inadequacy in equipment, and technology gap were being addressed.
Monguno said: “I briefed the council today (Thursday) on the general security situation in the country, especially the internal and external threats facing the nation and efforts that are currently underway to mitigate the challenges confronting us.
“In terms of security challenges confronting us, I briefed council on the activities of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) which is operating in conjunction with affiliate of larger terror groups across the globe, especially in the Greater Sahara as well as the Sahel.
“I also briefed on the activities of Boko Haram terrorists and the gradual mutation of these terrorist groups into other entities as well as the mode of operating which the security agencies have been on the lookout for,” he said.
He added: “I also spoke on the issue of continued communal clashes, farmers-herders clashes in certain flashpoints like Benue, Cross River, Plateau and Taraba states and efforts underway to bring the situation under control.
“Now, the spectrum of security challenges across the nation was something I spoke about; the fallout of security which has resulted to the need for us to change our strategy and to improve on the existing strategy.
“Of course, I briefed council on the efforts of the federal government to deal with these challenges based on the advice given to Mr President.”