Nigeria soldiers arrest 'leading Boko Haram militant'
5/11/2012 7:50:01 PM -
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AFP) - Nigerian troops arrested a suspected leading Boko Haram militant in a raid Friday, hours after the restive city where the Islamist group is based was rocked by blasts and gunfire.
"We had an operation this morning... at a Boko Haram hideout (in the northern city of Kano). We made some arrests but details will be given later," Kano military spokesman Lieutenant Iweha Ikedichi told AFP.
A security source involved in the raid in the Farawa neighbourhood of Kano, the largest city in the north, said a suspected high-profile member of the group, Suleiman Mohammed, was arrested along with his wife and five children.
He described Mohammed as Boko Haram's head of operations in Kano under the group's suspected leader, Abubakar Shekau.
According to the source, the suspect claimed to be from Oyo state in southwestern Nigeria -- which would be unusual for Boko Haram, whose members tend to come from the country's mainly Muslim north.
"We recovered three pistols, a rifle, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and 10 IEDs (improvised explosive devices)," the source said, adding that the house was destroyed after the raid.
Kano was the site of Boko Haram's bloodiest assault yet, when coordinated bombings and shootings in January left at least 185 people dead.
Friday's raid was launched hours after several explosions and gunfire were reported in the restive northeastern city of Maiduguri, where Boko Haram has its base.
A security official told AFP said the attack happened near a church in an area where a mosque owned by Boko Haram was razed during a 2009 crackdown on the group.
AFP saw truckloads of soldiers deployed to the area on Friday.
A spokesman for a military task force in Maiduguri said a minor explosion occurred in the area around 2:00 am.
"On reaching the area, two unexploded bombs were recovered and they were detonated by the task force. No casualty recorded," Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said in a statement.
Musa said that at around 8:30 am, troops encountered suspected Boko Haram members in another part of the city. Without providing details, he said one "high-profile terrorist" was killed and two people were arrested.
In yet another incident, the military and local residents reported a separate blast on Thursday in a different area of the city.
"There was a blast in an open field by the riverside. We still don't know who the target was but nobody was hurt," Musa told AFP.
Residents said it happened near a football field where a match was being played and caused people to flee.
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, has seen some of the worst violence blamed on the extremist sect, which has focused its attacks on the mainly Muslim north.
Boko Haram's increasingly bloody insurgency has claimed more than 1,000 lives since mid-2009.