Chris McManus and Franco Lamorina
By Kunle Akogun and Yemi Akinsuyi
Barely a week after the killing of a Briton, Chris McManus and an Italian, Franco Lamorina by a suspected splinter group of Boko Haram, the State Security Service (SSS) Wednesday paraded eight Boko Haram members that were involved in the kidnapping and eventual killing of two expatriate staff of Stabilini Visioni, a construction firm.
The killed expatriates were kidnapped in Kebbi State, at their residence in Kebbi State, since May last year. They were however killed last Thursday when a combined team of Nigerian and British operatives sought to rescue them from their captors. The mission failed, as the Boko Haram members killed the duo before help could reach them.
Some months ago, their captors had threatened to kill them if the demands of the Boko Haram sect were not met.
The killing of the two foreigners had further established the image of a terrorist nation now associated with Nigeria.
Indeed, but for the fact that the countries involved (save Italy) had jointly carried out the failed rescue mission, the murder would have sparked diplomatic offensives among the countries.
The Boko Haram Islamic sect had raised the bar of their attack on innocent Nigerians, and foreigners alike, within the northern region of the country, all in demand for the complete Islamisation of Nigeria, and the discontinuation of western education.
While reacting to the murder last week, the British Prime Minister, Mr David, Cameron in a statement from the British High Commission in Abuja, noted that “Chris McManus, a British citizen, was taken hostage by terrorists in Northern Nigeria in May 2011. He was taken hostage with his colleague, an Italian national, Franco Lamolinara.
Since then, we have been working closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to find Chris and Franco, and to secure their release. The terrorists holding the two hostages made very clear threats to take their lives, including in a video that was posted on the internet.”
The Prime Minister explained that, “After months of not knowing where they were being held, we received credible information about their location. A window of opportunity arose to secure their release.
“We also had reason to believe that their lives were under imminent and growing danger. Preparations were made to mount an operation to attempt to rescue Chris and Franco.”
But the pattern of the attack, analysts pointed out, differed substantially in strategy, given the established modus operandi of the Boko Haram killer sect. They hardly engage in kidnap of their victims.
To have held their victims hostage for about 10 months caused many to doubt if indeed Boko Haram was responsible. But the findings of the SSS have indicated that the kidnappers and the eventual killers are all members of the Islamic sect.
The service stated that it arrested the leader of the kidnap plot, Abu Mohammed and five others during a raid on their hideout at Layin Hanwa area of Zaria, Kaduna State on March 7, 2012 while holding a Shura Council (Boko Haram’s highest decision-making body) meeting.
The Assistant Director of the Service, Media and Public Relations, Doyin Adetuberu who addressed newsmen in Abuja Wednesday announced that Mohammed died on March 9 following severe bullet wounds sustained during a raid on his hideout in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Both the SSS operatives and the Boko Haram members had engaged themselves in a sustained gun duel aimed at over-running the other party.
The service paraded three youths aged between 19 and 20 years who were discovered to have conducted surveillance on the victims before their abduction in May 2011 at their residence in Kebbi State.
The suspects, Bashir Ibrahim (aka Adda’u), Ibrahim Habibu and Gambo Maiborodi were described as the collaborators that made the abduction of the foreigners possible.
The SSS also paraded five other suspects, Abu Mohammed; Mohammed Adam (aka Dan Hajiya); Abubakar Habibu; Shitu Salihu; Abubakar Umar and Ahmed Samaila who were involved in the crime.
Adetuberu said, “Preliminary interrogation of the suspects revealed that the guards protecting the hostages had been directed to kill them in the event of any envisaged threat.
The arrested suspects therefore advised that a rescue operation be immediately initiated more so as one of them had escaped during the Zaria raid.
“Consequently, a joint security operation was launched; one of the arrested suspects, Mohammed Adam who killed the soldier during the Zaria raid led the security team from Zaria about 11 pm on March 7 to Sokoto and arrived their destination about 04.30 hours on March 8.”
According to the Assistant Director, the guards murdered the hostages before the arrival of security forces, apparently acting on the directive of the sect members that escaped from Zaria.
Adetuberu explained that there was a prolonged exchange of gunfire during which three of the guards were killed while the wife of one of them sustained bullet wounds and was rushed to the hospital.
President Goodluck Jonathan, while commiserating with Britain and Italy on the incident had assured that the “perpetrators of the murderous act, who have all been arrested” will be prosecuted and made to “face the full wrath of the law”.
In the same vein, the Senate Wednesday mandated its Committees on National Security and Intelligence, Defence and Army and Foreign Affairs, to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of the foreigners in the hands of their captors.
The senate also expressed its readiness to amend the Terrorism Prevention Act to set deadlines for the trial of terrorism suspect and ensure speedy trial of the suspects.
The decisions followed the adoption of a motion on the failed rescue attempt of the abducted British and Italian nationals sponsored by Senator Atiku Abubakar Bagudu (PDP, Kebbi Central) and 21 others
Senate President, Senator David Mark, said: “We may have to look at the Terrorism Prevention Act to give it a time frame and specify a time in which terrorists suspects will be prosecuted.”
He also said the judiciary should be an important part of the struggle at wiping out terrorism,
But the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, noted that Nigerian security forces could have done better if they had been allowed to handle the operation without the involvement of an outside entity.
Agreeing, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said it was improper to engage the services of the British Forces in the rescue operation, in the light of the fact that a British citizen was involved..
Senator Pius Ehwerido, noted that the development was a national embarrassment, and urged security agencies to take advantage of the SIM card registration to reduce the activities of kidnappers in the country.