Nigeria’s secret police have arrested several people suspected of links to the Al-Qaeda network in three of the country’s predominantly Muslim states, a spokesman said Monday.
“Our operatives arrested the suspects in Kano, Kaduna and Yobe states in connection with the threat of terrorism,” State Security Service spokesman Ado Muazu told AFP, adding that the suspects had a “link to Al-Qaeda groups”.
He said they also had links to a group known as the Nigerian Taleban. This Islamic extremist movement first emerged in 2002 calling for a stricter implementation of Islamic sharia law in the 12 states of northern Nigeria that apply it.
Since then it has launched attacks on targets symbolizing the Nigerian government, most notably on police stations.
In the most recent of these attacks, the group earlier this year razed a police station in the northern city of Kano, killing around one dozen people.
The group is not known to have any connection to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Muazu said the suspects were all Nigerians but declined to disclose how many were arrested or what they were allegedly planning.
“The suspects were arrested with some explosive device materials,” Muazu said, adding that investigations were still going on.
Nigeria has never had an Al-Qaeda style attack but since the population is roughly half Muslim and since the country is home to various armed groups, US officials tend to see the country as being at risk of such activity.
By Sunny Ofili
Niger Delta rebel group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) today attacked Qua Iboe terminal, Nigeria’s biggest oil terminal belonging to ExxonMobil Corp in what maybe an attempt to cripple the country’s oil export.
Gunshots were fired outside ExxonMobil Corp.’s main oil export terminal in Nigeria on Monday, officials said. No injuries were reported.
MEND confirmed that it carried out the brazen attack in an email to The Times of Nigeria and promised to release additional details of the attack later.
Oil operations at the Qua Iboe terminal in southern Nigeria were not suspended and the situation appeared to be calm later in the day, company spokeswoman Gloria Essien-Danner said.
Earlier, there had been reports that an armed group was advancing on the facility, which has the capacity to handle more than 500,000 barrels daily, making it Nigeria’s biggest export terminal.
Armed militants campaigning for a greater share of oil wealth in the oil-rich delta have stepped up attacks on oil installations in the past two years, cutting more than 20 percent of Nigeria’s oil exports of 2.5 million barrels daily.
Seven foreign oil workers were seized during an attack last year by militants on a residential compound housing ExxonMobil employees near the terminal. Two guards were killed during the attack and the kidnapped workers were freed after two weeks.
More than 150 foreign oil workers have been seized in attacks since this year alone in the southern oil region. Most were freed unharmed after the payment of ransom.
Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil exporter and one of the top five suppliers of U.S. oil imports.
Additional reports from AP