Benue killings: Presidency fingers Islamic State fighters

*Edo, Kogi also invaded
*DSS warns of ISIS attacks
By Chesa Chesa
The heinous killings in Benue State and neighbouring states in the North Central region of the country, for which Fulani herdsmen have been fingered, are instead being perpetrated by fighters of the terror group, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), says the Presidency.
ISWA is an offshoot of the global terror organisation, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to which Nigeria’s equally deadly Boko Haram terrorist group had pledged allegiance.
Benue State in North Central Nigeria, has seen the heaviest casualties of residents since the beginning of this year as suspected armed herdsmen unleashed mayhem on farmers and other residents. A mass burial was conducted for 73 of the victims penultimate Thursday.
In reports submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian security organisations, including the Department of State Service (DSS) said they identified an ISWA network operating within some North Central and South-South states of the country.
According to a Presidency source at the weekend, the intelligence was gathered following the arrest of several suspected attackers made up of Fulani herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other miscreants in Benue Sate.
The security agencies claimed ISWA had been using foreign terrorists and recruiting young men fighting and killing innocent persons, in a bid to exacerbate tensions along the countya��s ethnic, religious and regional fault lines.
This is the first time that security officials have confirmed that the Islamic State in West Africa members are operating as a unit in Nigeria and the level of their penetration of the country, said the source, who disclosed many of the suspects arrested spoke French and not any of Nigerian languages.
It was gathered that a good number of the Islamic State terrorists were 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.
The source revealed that the terror cell a�?has members in different parts of the country that concentrates on recruiting young men to fight for the Islamic State in West Africa by unleashing the cold-blooded murder of innocent citizens.
a�?There was intelligence 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.
“This helped to save Nigeria from the spate of major terrorist attacks witnessed elsewhere that were syndicated by ISIS worldwide.a�?
Despite these successes, the reports submitted to Buhari indicated that the security agencies now fear an influx of other ISIS members into many parts of Nigeria.
a�?We are learning more and more about this complex and sophisticated network. This is the main reason why the secret service is not parading those suspects so far arrested. It has become clear to us by now, that the challenge facing this country is a serious one”, the source added.
When asked to react to this development, Buhari’s senior special adviser on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, confirmed that the President had been receiving a�?report upon report on the situation in Benue and other statesa�?.
He added that the DSS has recorded a lot of success lately but said he had not been briefed on any of those reports.

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