Sunday, 18 September 2022

US, Ex-envoy Keep Mum Over US Alleged Involvement In Kaduna Durbar Hotel Bombing


 

The United States has remained silent amid a damning allegation that it was behind the 1995 bombing of the Durbar Hotel in Kaduna.A journalist, Bagauda Kaltho, who was maimed, is accused of being an accomplice of the US government by Mahdi Shehu, a medical practitioner and activist.Speaking during an interview with ARISE NEWS Channel, Shehu also claimed that the American government offered him a bribe to carry out a terrorist attack against the Nigerian government during the regime of the late dictator, General Sani Abacha (rtd), which he declined.He suggested that Kaltho could have accepted to carry out the bomb attack, claiming he saw the journalist when he visited the same American agent who had approached him to plant the bomb in Durbar Hotel.


He identified the American agent as Russel Hanks, who was a political officer at the US Embassy in Nigeria.The American Embassy in Nigeria has yet to respond to THISDAY’s inquiry seeking comment on the allegation by the Nigerian activist.Efforts by THISDAY to reach Hanks to further comment on the issue also proved abortive.

But according to media reports, Hanks declined to comment on the allegations, saying that the US Embassy in Nigeria should provide relevant information.“I can confirm to you that I am Russell Hanks. I can confirm to you also that I was in Kaduna, and I’m the man that has been accused to have masterminded the bombing at Durbar Hotel in 1995,” Hanks was quoted as saying.


“But I’m afraid I can’t help you much. I can’t say anything about it now until the US Embassy in Nigeria has spoken on the issue. “When they do that, and you are not satisfied or you need further clarification on some issues, you can then call me back and I will provide you with the details,” he reportedly added.Shehu’s revelation followed his claim that the Department of State Services (DSS), was usually envious of individuals with state secrets or classified information and would be willing to compromise their safety and reputation. He cited the case of Tukur Mamu, who was deported from Egypt and arrested and detained by the DSS.


Mamu was a negotiator between the bandits who attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train and kidnapped victims’ families.  Following a court order, Mamu, an aide to the Islamic cleric Sheik Ahmad Gumi, is being detained.In the ARISE TV interview, Shehu claimed that Hanks offered him N500,000 to plant a bomb in a bookshop inside Durbar Hotel.“Let me tell you my experience 27 years ago. Between the 7th and 9th of June, 1995, 27 years ago in Kaduna, when the bashing of Nigeria’s image was at its own highest peak. A then-Governor, Lt. Col Lawal Jafaru Isa, he’s alive now, and he can confirm what I’m going to tell you now, put up a seminar between the Kaduna State government, New Nigerian newspaper, and NTA. The seminar was titled ‘Not in Our Character’,” Shehu explained.


He added, “after my contribution, a tall, lanky, blue-eyed, blonde-haired American man approached me outside the hall at Hassan Chiroma Katsina House, the venue of the seminar. He just handed over his card to me and left. What was the name on it? Russell J. Hanks, American Embassy, Political Officer. That was on the 9th of June, 1995.”

Shehu further told ARISE NEWS Channel that on August 11, 1995, he received a “courtesy” call from Hanks and another one on September 9, the same year.“Then 11th of December, he called me and said that ‘Mahdi, I’ll be coming to Kaduna. Will you have a cup of tea with me?’ I said fine. He came in, he called, and I met him at Hamdala Hotel. We had a cup of tea. I think he was trying to size me up because he was busy asking me about the performance of Abacha’s government, and I was playing safe, but then came the big bang,” the northern activist stated.Shehu claimed the American diplomat told him that the US government was on a “bomb campaign” against the Abacha regime and would want to enlist the activist to be part of the plot to oust the dictator.


“On 21st December of the same year (1995), he came into Kaduna, and he called me. He said, ‘Mahdi, I have a business for you. And it’s very important. Meet me at Hamdala Hotel, on the last floor at the Hamdala Hotel wing, which I did. On arrival, Russel Hanks told me, ‘Mahdi, we are worried. The American government is doing a bombing campaign against Abacha. We don’t want him. We are promoting a regime change,” Shehu told ARISE TV. “This parcel (holds out a phone in the description) is what I want you to do. See Durbar Hotel, just away there, 600 metres. Go into the bookshop and drop off this parcel, a small parcel. This is N500,000 for you and another N500,000 waiting for you. Once you drop the parcel, please come back to collect the second N500,000.”Shehu said he rejected the offer and insulted the American.


“I said, ‘Russel, you have miscalculated. When I addressed Adamu Ciroma as the Minister for Agriculture in that seminar, you’re referring to, when I addressed (Abubakar) Rimi as the communications minister when I addressed Ismaila Isa Funtua as the chairman of Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, I did that as a citizen, not because I don’t like my country. I dressed him down. I abused him,”. ‘He said Mahdi Mahdi; now I know you’re a good citizen. I’m just trying to test you. You are a nationalist. We look forward to working with you to stabilise Nigeria.’ And that was another fault. I held him because I saw the desperation in him. He wanted me to leave, but I refused to leave. Then I heard a knock on the door.”At the door, he claimed, was journalist Kaltho.


“We went to the door together, and he wanted to see me off. At the door was Bagauda Kaltho, the journalist that was said to have been killed by Abacha. Bagauda was right at the door there. I think he gave him an hour before me. But I keyed into Bagauda’s hour. Bagauda went into the room, and I left. What happened? Not long after that, two hours later, bomb! Where? Durbar Hotel. Where? At the bookshop. When that happened, Lawal Jafaru Isa can confirm this,” Shehu stressed.


Shehu did not say if he immediately alerted the police or other security agency about the alleged plot until a bomb exploded inside the Durbar Hotel.However, after the bombing, he told ARISE TV that “I drove straight to the government house to see the governor.”The activist added, “I was ushered into Lawal Jafaru Isa’s office, and I told him what happened. The following day, I was brought to Abuja. I was able to see Abacha in his residence, and I narrated to him. Before they could say, Jack Robinson, four days later, Russel Hanks flew out of Nigeria.”Among Shehu’s riveting claims was the response of Nigeria’s secret police following the bomb blast.


According to Shehu, the DSS was not impressed with his involvement in the case and allegedly warned him against speaking about it.“Ten days later, security operatives came to Kaduna to interview me. When I gave them the narrative, one of them took me to the side and said, ‘Mahdi, keep off. We are very jealous. Security agencies are very jealous institutions. You have done your own. Don’t ever give any public comments on it. Don’t give interviews, don’t give anything because if you begin to talk, our failure would have been seen very clearly,’” Shehu explained.He further stated, “From this following information, I called Mamu three times, and I said, ‘Mamu, security agents are more jealous than a woman whose husband is about to take a second wife. Keep off from them. They’ll injure you.’



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