Four days after two foreign hostages were killed in a failed rescue operation, insurgents of the extremist Boko Haram sect have now trained their sights on kidnapping expatriates attached to construction giants, Julius Berger and Dantata & Sawoe.
According to a high-level security official in the administration, a Boko Haram top shot, who was arrested recently by the police, confessed that his team had put an elaborate plan in place to take as many “white men” as possible into custody.
Suleiman Gambo, who is better known as Babangida within Boko Haram circles, specifically mentioned expatriates attached to the two construction companies as prime targets, but that other “white men” could also be kidnapped.
A police team arrested Mr. Gambo, believed to have led an attack on the Tambuwal Police Station in Sokoto, on December 20, 2011 during a raid on a house where some insurgents were hiding.
During the raid, one sect member was killed, two escaped with bullet injuries while Mr. Gambo was arrested. He was brought to Abuja, detained by the police for a while and then handed over to the military for “safekeeping”.
He is currently being detained at an unknown location in Abuja.
Among other confessions, the suspect reportedly told investigators that a plan to seize hostages was afoot and that members of the sect were desperately searching for a suitable house to keep hostages and efficient vehicles for the operation in Abuja and its environs.
“The plan is that after the kidnap, they would either transport their victims to their counterparts in Algeria in exchange for arms or demand money for ransom as the case may be,” our source said.
The Boko Haram suspect, according to another source familiar with the investigation, also told his interrogators that the killed Briton and Italian hostages were kidnapped by a certain Abu Mohammad, described as the commander of the Sokoto cell of the group.
He also reportedly said one Ibrahim Babayi had full knowledge of how the foreigners were kidnapped from their Birnin Kebbi base, and where they were kept.
The hostages, Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara were seized from their hotel rooms in Birnin Kebbi on May 12, 2011.
They were “murdered by their captors” on March 8, in a failed joint rescue operation by British and Nigerian forces.
President Goodluck Jonathan categorically blamed the Boko Haram sect for the kidnap, and eventual murder of the expatriates.
But the sect later issued a statement, saying it had no hand in the matter, a claim that has been punctured by some sect members in custody of security agencies.
With the latest intelligence indicating that more expatriates might be seized, it is not known whether security had been heightened around foreigners, especially those of the two construction companies.
Police spokesperson, Olusola Amore, could not be reached for comments. He did not answer or return calls to his mobile telephone.
Julius Berger spokesperson, Clement Iloba, could also not be reached to comment for this story. But a company source said security had been scaled up for expatriate staff of the company around the country.