Two Nigeria men have been accused of having links with al-Qaeda and recruiting members to train in Yemen, the BBC is reporting this morning.
Olaniyi Lawal, 31, and Luqman Babatunde, 30, both pleaded not guilty at a court in the capital Abuja, the report says.
The two are charged with receiving funds from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and seeking to “further the objectives” of the group, according to court papers seen by the corporation.
Messrs Lawal and Babatunde were charged with receiving “monies in Saudi riyals and US dollars equivalent to one million naira” (about $6,200; W£4,000) from AQAP.
Prosecutors say they planned to use the money to recruit and transport prospective members of a terrorist group to Yemen for training, in violation of Nigeria’s anti-terrorism law.
The two men have however not been linked to the extremist Boko Haram sect which has been blamed for a series of deadly attacks and deaths of hundreds of people in the north of Nigeria.
The extremist Boko Haram sect has of recent been linked to international terror gangs like the Al Qaeda.
The first official document linking the group to Al Qaeda is a United States’ cable dated June 29, 2009, leaked by Wikileaks. The cable, written before the Boko Haram sect began its terror campaigns in August that year, documented the sect’s link to a well-trained veteran Chadian extremist, Abu-Mahjin.
The cable described Abu-Mahjin as having “limited ties to al-Qa’ida associates,” and was, on behalf of the Boko Haram sect, seeking more funds to facilitate a massive terrorist attack. The extremist sect began its terror attack on the Nigerian state two months after the cable was written.
Boko Haram’s successes in attacking defenceless religious congregations, bank robberies, and vandalization of police armouries validated its growing link with established terrorist groups outside the country.
Previous security intelligence on the sect suggests that its recent transformation, successes, and organization is partly because of the help it received from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a branch of the international terrorist network based in the Saharan states of Mali, Niger and Algeria.
In January this year, The UK Guardian interviewed the sect’s spokesperson, Abu Qaqa, who reportedly said his group’s leaders met with high ranking members of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia during a pilgrimage in August 2011.
The meeting, Mr. Qaqa told the paper, was to finalise the group’s financial and logistics arrangements with Al-Qaeda.
“Al-Qaeda are our elder brothers,” he told the Guardian. “We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we want from them we ask them.”
A UN report released shortly after the Libyan crisis also said weapons from Libya may have been smuggled to Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Both the government and its security agencies had, in the past, claimed the group gets foreign funding and support from other terror gangs like Al Ahabab in Somalia.