Saturday, July 24, 2010

Talibans uprising anniversery puts Nigeria on high alert

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AFP) – Police searched for weapons and residents were on edge here Saturday ahead of the one-year anniversary of a deadly uprising by the Nigerian Taliban, with fears it would strike again.

A sect leader believed killed appeared on video issuing threats recently, adding to concerns that the militant group was reforming, though local police dismiss the clips as digital mock-ups and insist he is dead.

Authorities have set up night checkpoints and are searching vehicles in a bid to keep weapons from entering the city of Maiduguri -- the centre of the uprising.

A dozen police vans escorted by a siren-blaring armoured car had been regularly rumbling through the city's streets, but the show of force was halted recently because it rattled residents, a police officer said.

"This is part of the security strategy because these troublemakers may want to use the cover of night to bring in arms," said a police sergeant at a checkpoint on Friday night, where about a dozen cars waited.

Last year's uprising began on July 26 and spread to four states, though it was centred in Maiduguri in the country's mainly Muslim north.

It ended four days later with more than 800 dead, most of them sect members. The military and police launched an assault on the sect's headquarters, leaving it in rubble.

The sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was also killed. Police were accused of killing him after he had been captured alive, but officers said he was shot while trying to escape from custody.

His deputy, Abubakar Shekau, was believed killed as well, but video clips have emerged in recent months in which he threatens to "avenge the killings of our brethren."

"What happened was only the prelude, the actual show has not started yet," he says in one clip.

While Monday marks the anniversary of the start of the insurrection, Friday may pose a larger risk since it is the date Yusuf was killed.

The scale of the uprising and military assault last year shocked the country, Africa's most populous and where roughly half of the 150 million population is Muslim.

The sect, while known as the Nigerian Taliban, is also called Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sin" in local dialect.

Its ranks had been filled by a range of recruits, including university drop-outs, unemployed youths and those seeking to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state.

"Everybody is apprehensive of what might happen in the next few days," Maiduguri resident Abdulqahhar Idrissa told AFP.

"Rumours are all over the city that members of Boko Haram are going to strike during the anniversary and everyone is afraid because we know the agony we went through last year during the fighting."

Authorities have said in recent weeks that there were concerns the sect was reforming, and hundreds of anti-riot police reinforcements have been deployed in Maiduguri.

Police have also guarded the destroyed mosque that had previously served as the sect?s headquarters.

One police officer at the site said recently that a suspected member of the sect had come to the mosque a couple weeks earlier to pray for Yusuf.

Maiduguri resident Hajjo Madu, 30, said on Friday she planned to stay in her neighbourhood over the coming days out of fears of violence.

"Because that was how the violence started last year, with rumours that later turned to reality," said Madu, a mother of three.

A 32-year-old man recently told AFP in the city that he was ready for holy war if the sect's leaders ordered it.

"Once the directive comes, nothing can stop us," he said.


Post a Comment



Site Info


Chelsea Post Copyright © 2009 WoodMag is Designed by Ipietoon for Free Blogger Template