Terror exchange – The Nation

  • Federal Government must take The Sun of London’s report seriously

Nothing illustrates better the highly organised and well coordinated enterprise that the international terrorist network has become than the strange and disturbing news of the existence of a perverse “terror exchange programme” between militant Nigerian Islamic extremists  and commanders of the Jihadist terrorist organisation, Islamic State (IS), which has a particularly strong presence in Iraq and Syria.

According to a report by The Sun of London, the IS has been smuggling extremist Islamic fighters into Nigeria from Syria for training in acts of terror to undermine the security, both of Nigeria and the country’s allies in the war against religious insurgency. In exchange, local Nigerian insurgents are reported to be given access to specialised training in terroristic expertise in IS strongholds outside the country.

Incidentally, the London-based newspaper quoted as its source a senior Nigerian Air Force (NAF) officer, Group Captain Isaac Subi, who was said to have made the revelation at a military mission in Kaduna, where British anti-terror soldiers have been assisting Nigerian troops in counter-insurgency training. The report cited Subi as saying that “they come and train their fighters here and some of our insurgents too are granted access to their training in Yemen and Syria, acquiring those skills and they come back and teach others. They have this exchange programme of fighters. There are hundreds of fighters. It’s a virus that spreads across our borders. Their action leaves trails of blood and tears and Sorrow”.

Should Group Captain Subi, who is said to have been involved in combating terrorism in Africa for nearly two decades, not have been more discreet in divulging this kind of sensitive information? Would a more subtle handling of the information not have given the intelligence and other security agencies the opportunity to take mitigating measures before the terrorist groups became aware of the exposure of their tactics and strategies? We can only hope that this revelation will disrupt the operations of the insurgents who must now be wary of the fact that the authorities are on top of their antics and activities.

It is, of course, not difficult to discern why the IS insurgents will seek to give their Nigerian associates specialised training and sneak them back to operate from within the country. That way, they will have at their disposal terrorist fighters who have intimate knowledge of the Nigerian terrain and thus better placed to cause maximum havoc domestically. And as The Sun report insinuated, the strong links and regular travels between Lagos and London, could “make it easier for IS to send its killers to attack the UK and bring more death and destruction”. Brigadier Charles Calder, Britain’s Defence Adviser in Nigeria, reinforced this point when he noted that, if unchecked, this terror exchange programme “could present a threat to both UK interests and conceivably the UK mainland”.

With this revelation, the Nigerian security and intelligence community have their work cut out for them. They have the responsibility to scale up their operations with a view to thwarting and urgently eliminating this terror exchange programme. The possibility of extraneous interests exploiting internal sectarian dissensions within Nigeria to compound security challenges within the country should also inform the way the Nigerian government handles such differences, for instance as those between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. A high handed and repressive approach may push sect members who feel disadvantaged, persecuted and hounded into the welcome embrace of murderous terrorists.

Britain, which already has 150 troops assisting Nigerian forces with counter-terror training in the country with 35,000 Nigerian soldiers benefitting from the exercise so far, deserves commendation for her support. However, this latest terror-exchange danger demands that the UK steps up its assistance, particularly in the area of intelligence gathering and other operations to Nigeria in order to curtail what constitutes a serious threat to both countries.

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