Boko Haram releases picture of suicide bomber and disputes police claims about the June 16 bombings at the police headquarters in Abuja
It is yet uncertain whether Boko Haram, the sect that is claiming responsibility for the series of attacks in some northern states and Abuja, is trying to confuse the security forces or actually helping to lead them to the truth about the explosion at the police headquarters on June 16. The sect tells the tale of one Mohammed Manga, a 35-year-old man from Adamawa State, who lived in Maiguduri until that June 16. The profile of the man it described as a successful businessman, a father of five children, who had gone on trips to Dubai and other commercial hubs of the world does not fit into that of a suicide bomber.
But Boko Haram said Manga was the man who sacrificed his life to attack the police. Abu Zaid, spokesman of the group, claimed in an interview with Blueprint, an Abuja-based weekly tabloid that Manga was the suicide bomber, and that he became a convert years back after embracing the teachings of Mohammed Yusuf – the late leader of the sect who was killed by the police in July 2009 after his capture by the army.
He said: “His name is Mohammed Manga, but he is popularly called Alhaji Manga. He was from Adamawa State but he was born and brought up in Maiduguri. He was a businessman; in fact, a successful businessman because he left over N4 million in his will for his two daughters and three sons.”
Zaid claimed the attack was pre-planned as a suicide attack, and that the bomb used were purchased from outside the country. He said Manga agreed to sacrifice his life for “Allah’s sake,” and also wished others would follow his step. Describing the last hours of the bomber, the Boko Haram’s spokesman said he “was calm and looked peaceful even when he had decided to give his life away. Many brothers envied him and wished it was their turn to act.”
He revealed that members of the group were willing to make similar sacrifice to advance their cause. “So far we have screened nearly 100 persons for suicide attacks for this year alone in Nigeria, while more than this number is getting ready for next year,” he further revealed.
Asked whether the group had any link with al-Qaeda, or other militant groups in Somalia and Sudan, he neither denied nor confirmed it. Instead he said: “We are the true followers of the prophet known as kitabul Sunna. Our objective is to destroy kufr (unbelief) and injustice in our land. Whoever has this, as his objective anywhere in the world is with us and whatever happens to him affects us and what happens to us should affect them as well. That is our only link to them.”
The group repeated its claim that it decided to embark on this ‘jihad’ because the Nigerian state had prevented them from pursuing their religious practice peacefully. “We came under constant attacks and harassment, our mosque was destroyed and many were deprived of their livelihood and killed in cold blood.” The group said it regretted the loss of innocent lives in attacks carried out by it, but urged Nigerians to heed their warnings to stay clear of government institutions and security outfits.
Although the magazine could not establish the authenticity of the interview, the disclosures in the interview are consistent with earlier messages released to the press by Zaid, who has emerged as authentic spokesman of the group. The interviews and press releases were usually issued in Hausa. Zaid spoke to Daily Trust newspaper two weeks ago, making similar disclosures. The only new thing is his disclosure about the suicide attack and the identity of the bomber.
The police, which initially claimed the June 16 attack, was suicide bombing, retracted the statement two weeks ago. Hafiz Ringim, inspector-general, IG of police told journalists during an interactive session in his office that police investigations were still ongoing, and that there was no certainty that it was suicide attack.
Thus if the IG and the police still had doubts about what happened on June 16, last week’s revelation must have cleared the doubts. The release of the alleged bomber’s picture, and the disclosures about the planning of the attack, must certainly be seen as a continuation of Boko Haram’s fight against the police. It is a way, according to a source familiar with the operations of the militant sect, to tell the police “we are more popular and stronger than you think.”
But Azubuike Ihejirika, the chief of army staff, thinks Boko Haram’s strategy is to intimidate the public from giving information about their whereabouts to security agencies. Ihejirika, who spoke at a press briefing to mark this year’s Nigerian Army Day Celebration, urged religious leaders to encourage their followers to share information with security agencies so that the people can be better protected.
Ihejirika called members of the group cowards who attack innocent people, and wondered why they have refused to fight in the open. “They are cowards. If they are not, why can’t they fight in the open? People should not be intimidated by the sect’s attack strategy and should give sufficient information on them to the security agencies,” he urged. He, however, said soldiers would not be directly involved in the operation against the sect, adding that the military’s involvement so far was due to the sophistication of the weapons used by the group.
While the security agencies figure out ways of containing them, the militant sect seemed to have succeeded in intimidating the authorities. Heavily armed soldiers and policemen now man entry points into the Federal Capital Territory, FCT conducting checks that cause traffic delays for hours. The FCTA has also imposed curfew on parks, nightclubs, beer gardens and cinemas as part of new security measures in the city.
In a statement issued last Wednesday, the FCTA mandated all operators of parks and gardens that admit children are to close by 6pm daily, including weekends, while cinemas, nightclubs and beer gardens must close by 10 pm. The operators of these public places were also directed to put in place adequate security measures within their premises to ensure security of lives and property. The statement said the measures became necessary “sequel to the prevailing security concerns.”
The Senate also met with security chiefs last week on how to deal with the Boko Haram threat. A similar meeting had taken place between the security chiefs and the Presidency shortly after the June 16 blast.
But the picture of the alleged bomber raises some pertinent questions. For instance, why would somebody going to bomb himself smile at a camera and also hold an AK 47 gun in one hand? The man in the picture looks more like someone going to have fun. Also, suicide bombers usually make signs acknowledging God’s greatness. But Manga simply waves his hands as if to say: See you later!
Boko Haram claimed to be toeing the line of Prophet Mohammed. But Islam does not encourage writing of will. Muslim analysts say if Manga were truly a religious martyr, the leaders of his sect would be the ones that would share his earthly belongings.
Reacting to the publication last week, Olusola Amore, a deputy commissioner of police and the force public relations officer, said the police had seen the publication. “But the police would not want that publication to distract our investigations. We are still investigating the attack,” he told the magazine last Thursday. On when the police would conclude investigations, he said there was no deadline for investigations, saying that the September 11 attacks in the United States was still being investigated.
He said: “I don’t think they have concluded investigations into the 9/11 blast, which happened years back. Not to talk of this one that happened two weeks ago. You don’t know what investigations entail? You get onto a lead and it leads you to another lead until you get to your conclusion. We don’t have a deadline for it for now.”