|A leader of Boko Haram|
A man suspected to be the second-in-command to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was last weekend nabbed in Lokoja by a team comprised of Nigerian Army and Department of State Security (DSS) personnel.
Sources that the suspected Boko Haram leader, identified as Khalid Al-Barnawi, was rounded up at the Chari Magumeri Barracks in the outskirts of Lokoja town, following a tip-off.
It was gathered that the suspect was in the barracks to visit a family member when he was nabbed by security operative, who had been on his trail.
Al-Barnawi, alongside a family member and one other accomplice, whom he reportedly came to visit at the barracks, are said to have been moved to an undisclosed Abuja location, under tight security after the successful joint operation by the Nigerian Army and DSS.
An insider revealed that before Al-Barnawi’s arrest, he had been reportedly spearheading most of the deadly attacks within Kogi Central district and some parts of Edo State. It was also learnt that during DSS surveillance, it was discovered that the terrorist was preparing a new Boko Haram cell in Kogi State, with many new recruits said to be receiving training in the Okene hills, even engaging in several armed robbery attacks on travellers.
The source said the insurgents-in-training concentrated their criminal activities on those plying the Abuja-Lokoja-Okene road leading to Edo, Delta states, and the Eastern part of the country, as well as the Lokoja-Okene-Ibillo road leading to the South-West.
Aside the gangs being behind several robberies, attacks on bullion vans and police stations, as well as kidnappings in Kogi State, are being perpetrated by recruits of Al-Barnawi who are believed to be stockpiling arms gotten from attacks, as well as proceeds from their robbery operations.
In recent times, there have been an upsurge in violent crimes, with armed robbery topping the list and a close second being kidnapping in some parts of Kogi State, with sizeable ransoms demanded, especially within the Central senatorial district.
Police sources said the Inspector-General of Police recently ordered the Kogi State Commissioner of Police to step-up security following the spike of criminalities in some parts of the state.
On September 25, 2015, suspected insurgents numbering about 40 reportedly attacked the headquarters of the Department of State Security (DSS), Lokoja in a bid to free their members from detention. Eyewitness said the gunmen arrived at about 9:40pm, laid in wait till about 10:30pm to commence their operations after three offensive groups were strategically positioned along the Hassan Usman Katsina Road.
In an operation straight from a Hollywood movie, the road leading from the Nigeria Police Zone 8 Headquarters, the new Confluence Stadium, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) office en route the DSS office was barricaded by the gunmen shortly before the NAN Junction with a long truck placed across. The gunmen, it was gathered, planned to launch an attack later that night but the sudden emergence of a police vehicle on routine patrol to the area, which was apparently oblivious of the operation, triggered the attack prematurely, an eye witness explained.
A combined team of security forces from the Nigerian Army, the Police, and DSS later engaged the insurgents in a gun duel that left an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) from Kaduna State and three of the terrorists dead. The gunmen carried out their assault on the DSS office with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and destroyed vehicles and structures, with some of its members reportedly released from detention.
It was gathered the attack was launched by the group primarily to secure the release of its members detained at the facility. Commenting on the incident which lasted about four hours, Emmanuel Ojukwu, the then Commissioner of Police, confirmed the death of the ASP in the operation but could not confirm whether the gunmen were of the Boko Haram sect.
“I cannot confirm whether they are Boko Haram or not. All I know is that they are criminal elements and the law will take its course. We are investigating to know the circumstances that led to that attack, their motive and others,” he said.
Following the attack on the DSS office in Lokoja, it was gathered that some of the detainees who were freed from detention where later traced to parts of Okene, where the sect is said to be laying low at a hideout. Military personnel, acting on intelligence reports, stormed the hideout located at Inike Ward in Okene local government area on October 13, 2015.
The ensuing gun battle lasted several hours, leaving over 15 insurgents dead, while a soldier reportedly died.
A security source hinted that a large amount of money, in both foreign and local currency, was recovered at the time of the raid. The source added that the insurgents, who later mobilised their other members, even set ablaze some operational vehicles belonging to security operatives.
Army personnel later called reinforcement in, subsequently destroying the edifice which the sect members allegedly used as an operational base.
When asked police spokesman William Aya, he confirmed incident but declined comment, adding that it is a military operation.
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