The Islamic State in West Africa network operating within some North Central and South-South sections of Nigeria may be responsible for the recent killings recorded in Benue State and other parts of the country.
This information is said to be contained in an intelligence report presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by security agencies, including the Department of State Service.
A top government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told journalists on Sunday that the security organisations told the President that the ISWA network is using foreign terrorists and recruiting young men to fight and kill innocent persons “ostensibly to exacerbate tensions along the county’s ethnic, religious and regional fault lines.”
He said the discovery was made following the arrest of several suspected attackers made up of Fulani herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other miscreants in Benue State.
Among those in custody, according to the Presidency source, are many suspects who cannot speak any Nigerian languages.
They are, however, said to be fluent in French language.
He added that this is the first time that security officials would be confirming that the ISWA members are operating as a unit in Nigeria.
The source said, “A good number of the Islamic State terrorists have been arrested not only in the Benue valley but significantly in several towns in Edo State, specifically in Akoko-Edo, Okpella and Benin as well as in Okene, in Kogi State.
“It is understood that the cell which has members in different parts of the country concentrates on recruiting young men to fight for the Islamic State in West Africa by unleashing the cold-blooded murder of innocent citizens.
“There was intelligence report that they had planned several attacks here, before and during Christmas and the New Year. Their bombing targets included fuel depots, foreign missions and police and military establishments.
“Their network is very wide. But so much was achieved by the DSS which had made a significant number of arrests in the last two months that helped to preempt those attacks.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed that Buhari has been receiving a lot of reports on the killings in Benue and other states.
Shehu however said he had no knowledge of the content of any of the reports.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has been receiving reports upon reports on the situation in Benue and other states.
“I can also confirm that the DSS has recorded a lot of success lately but I have not been briefed on any of those reports submitted to the President,” the presidential spokesman said.