Friday, September 9, 2011

Boko Haram: SSS, Northern leaders’ deal exposed

6 September 2011

A United States Government cable released by Wikileaks has exposed a deal that helped terrorism suspects of Northern origin to escape trial and prison after arrest.

The cable with reference id: #08ABUJA538 was sent to the US State Department by a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Robin Rene Sanders, on March 20, 2008.

The cable reveals that the State Security Service and the Northern traditional system reached an understanding for the secretive release and non-trial of terrorism suspects from the region. The deal provided that terrorism suspects from the region would be released to a carefully selected group of traditional rulers and Imams shortly after their arrest.

Our correspondent reports that nearly all of the terrorism suspects arrested in the North belong to the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

Sanders wrote that that the deal was part of a SSS program called “Perception Management,” which aimed to reform terrorism suspects and promote the notion that religious extremists in the region had no foreign affiliations. Among other conditions, terrorism suspects who benefitted from the programme agreed to submit to routine monitoring by the SSS, report regularly to the SSS and abandon extremism.

The cable says the SSS programme was “aimed at de-radicalising and reforming Muslims, who have espoused or otherwise participated in extremist-cum-terrorist activities. Under this plan, individuals are released from police or SSS custody and entrusted to “sureties,” most of whom are imams or respected traditional leaders in the North.

“In late January, the Sultan of Sokoto (Nigeria’s preeminent traditional ruler and communal leader of Nigeria’s 70 million Muslims) told PolOff (political officer) (that) the Sultanate in concert with the 13 emirates of the North is “quietly” working to leverage influence on the region’s Islamic leadership to combat rising extremism and radicalisation of Muslim youth.

“A member of the Sultan’s inner circle told PolOff the SSS Director (General) reportedly gave the Sultan his assurance that the SSS would not legally pursue the suspects if the North agreed to take custody of them and “reform their ways.”

The cable says that in some cases suspects were released despite been caught with explosives, arms and ammunition, or linked to the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It says 12 suspects arrested and detained by the SSS in October 2007 for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks were released at different times in January and February 2008. Another US government cable says some of the suspects were later implicated in bombings and attacks claimed by Boko Haram.

The cable says despite what an SSS agent described to an American official as “overwhelming” and “undeniable” evidence, at least one suspect arraigned in court was cleverly left off by the SSS who did not provide evidence that could nail him.

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