Nigeria extremist videos ‘reveal’ bomber of UN building in Abuja
LAGOS: Videos have emerged purporting to show members of a Nigerian Islamist sect preparing for suicide attacks, including a young man said to be responsible for last month’s bombing of capital Abuja’s UN headquarters.
The two videos are said to be from the sect known as Boko Haram, and come as concern intensifies over whether it has formed links with outside groups such as al-Qaeda’s north African branch.
The possibility of such links has led to deep concern among Western nations and mounting pressure on the government in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest oil producer.
General Carter Ham, the head of the US military’s Africa Command, said last week that al-Qaeda’s north African branch, Shebab militants in Somalia and Boko Haram, had expressed a will to “more closely collaborate and synchronise their efforts”.
Boko Haram’s attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated, but it had not been known to target international institutions before the UN bombing in Abuja.
A man who identified himself as a spokesman for Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing on the day of the August 26 attack.
The two videos said to be from the group include 25 minutes of speeches from the alleged bomber.
It has not been possible to verify the authenticity of the videos, but they seem to offer a window into a form of Islamist extremism in Nigeria that authorities have so far shown little capability of addressing.
They bear hallmarks of past Boko Haram clips and also feature speeches by a man identified as Abubakar Shekau, its suspected leader, who went into hiding following a failed 2009 uprising by the group.
The videos are mostly in the Hausa language widely spoken in the country’s mainly Muslim north, but also partly in Arabic.
The video focusing on the UN bombing, which killed at least 23 people and was among the deadliest targeting the world body, is more than an hour and 15 minutes long.
A soft-spoken, 27-year-old smiling man said to be the UN bomber pleads with his family to understand his actions, and a vague warning is sent out to “Obama and other infidels”.
He is rail thin and wears a striped, polo-style shirt, a turban and what looks to be a suicide vest.
In a phone interview, a man who claimed to be a spokesman for the sect identified the alleged bomber as Mohammed Abul Barra, a married auto repair worker with a son, from the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, where the group has carried out most of its attacks.
His name was picked in a draw because a number of others also wanted to carry out the mission, according to the spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Qaqa. Boko Haram’s supposed foreign links as well as the origin of its backing is controversial in Nigeria, as is whether it was truly behind the UN attack.
Nigerian Professor Kyari Mohammed, who has been closely studying the sect, said some members may have received training from other extremist groups, but he doubted more substantial co-operation had occurred.
Nigeria’s secret police claimed in the days after the UN attack that an al-Qaeda-linked suspect recently returned from Somalia, named Mamman Nur, masterminded the blast. He was declared wanted.
Nur was believed to be third-in-command of Boko Haram when it launched the 2009 uprising.