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An alleged recruiter for an Islamic State (Isis) cell operating in Nigeria has been arrested and accused of planning to meet with other militants at a terrorist training camp in Libya. Abdussalam Enesi Yunusa, a university student, was reportedly detained by Nigeria's State Security Service (DSS) in Kano, in the north of the country, last month.
It comes as the DSS said it had carried out a three-month crackdown on extremist groups amid fears Islamists were planning further attacks on Nigerian civilians. It said several terrorist attacks had been foiled.
Yunusa, who was arrested on 17 January, is accused of leading a "covert drive to indoctrinate and recruit susceptible youths in the country". "Prior to his arrest, Yunusa had completed arrangements to embark on a journey to join an Isis terrorist training camp in Libya, with other Nigerians whom he recruited for the Islamic State," DSS official Tony Okpuiyo said in a statement published by Nigeria's Premium Times yesterday (9 February).
He added: "These recent [DSS] operations have significantly degraded the key extremist groups and kidnapping gangs, terrorising innocent citizens in the country, particularly in the south-west, north-west and middle-belt regions of the federation."
Yunusa was said to have been radicalised while a student at Federal University of Technology in Minna, Nigeria, where he was studying for a degree in Information and Media Technology. The DSS said he then joined an extremist Isis cell whose members are "currently undergoing terrorist training in Libya".
Security officials say intelligence provided by Yunusa revealed two other "Isis agents" – named as "Aminu" and Ibrahim Jihadi – were operating in Nigeria, with the cell allegedly funded by Abu-sa'ad Al Sudani, a "media expert" who used Western Union transfers to move money.
Security experts have recently urged the Nigerian government to clamp down on Islamist extremists, warning the country risked becoming a "gateway" for people who want to travel to Isis-controlled areas. The north-east of the country has been ravaged by a six-year-long insurgency by Boko Haram, which has killed between 17,000 and 20,000 people since 2009. The insurgents – who pledged their allegiance to Isis last year – are renowned for kidnapping civilians and forcing them to participate in terror attacks.
The same day as Yunusa's arrest saw another terrorist cell affiliated with Isis, Ansaru, "intercepted" in Daura, a township on the border with Niger. Seven members of the cell, a spin-off from Boko Haram, were detained and accused of preparing for attacks in Katsina and Kano states. Two of those arrested were named by security officials as Ibrahim Mohammed Daura and Zaharadeen Salisu.
On 22 January, five people were also arrested in Kano accused of trying to travel with their families to Libya to join Isis. The group was apprehended after what security agents said was "painstaking monitoring of its network and plans".
And a week later, on 29 January, the DSS said it had prevented another series of terrorist attacks with the arrest of Mohammed Aliyu Ndako in Kwara state. The 17-year-old student is accused of planning "lone wolf" attacks, with the help of another student, nicknamed "Daddy Tall" (real name Abdulkadir Salisu Ahmad). The pair had allegedly chosen "worship centres or recreation venues" as their targets and were communicating with foreign extremists.
The recent crackdown, between December and February, also saw the break-up of "syndicated kidnap gangs" said to be at "advanced stages of kidnapping high-value targets for huge ransom". This included the killing of "notorious kidnap kingpin" Abubakar Mohammed (also known as Buba) following a shoot-out with security officials on 8 February in Jebba.