…as UK issues fresh terror alert
. DSS, NIA, police, other security operatives dismantle terror cell in joint operation
. Raid suspects’ hideouts in Abuja, Mararaba, other FCT satellite towns
Operatives of the Department of State Services, the National Intelligence Agency, police and other security agencies have raided the hideouts of suspected terrorists in Abuja and the satellite towns of the Federal Capital Territory, arresting five Islamic State of West Africa Province commanders and 30 fighters.
The joint operation launched by the security agencies in the FCT successfully dismantled a growing terrorists’ cell in the FCT.
The terror suspects, it was learnt, were arrested at their hideouts in different locations within the Abuja metropolis, Mararaba and other FCT satellite towns. The arrested suspects, it was further learnt, are currently being detained by the DSS.
The suspects were arrested amid heightened tension in the nation’s capital.
Meanwhile, the popular Abuja supermarket, Jabi Lake Mall did not open on Thursday due to the threats posed by the security situation in the FCT.
Also, the FCT Administration in a preemptive action against criminal elements, demolished shanties built on Law School land.
The FCT Administration said its action was part of security measures.
The United Kingdom also issued a fresh security alert warning British nationals against visiting Abuja and 14 other states.
The fresh UK alert further heightened anxiety among FCT residents, resulting in many of them staying away from work while the usual traffic gridlocks in some parts of the city disappeared.
United States Mission and the British High Commission also suspended consular services.
However, the joint raid by security operatives, which resulted in the terror suspects’ arrest continued on Thursday with more arrests. US security and intelligence agencies were said to also be involved in the operations against the suspected terrorists.
The intelligence agencies, it was learnt, had been on the trail of the suspected terrorists before the US and the British High Commission issued last Sunday’s security alerts warning their citizens about impending terrorist attacks.
US Embassy in Abuja had issued an alert for “an elevated risk of terror attacks” in the city, identifying possible targets to include government buildings, places of worship and other public places.
US government, in response to the security threat, authorised the departure of its non-essential employees and their families from Nigeria.
US State Department in its updated Nigeria travel advisory on Tuesday evening said, “On October 25, 2022, the Department authorised the departure of non-emergency US government employees and family members due to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks.’’
The British High Commission in Nigeria also took a similar step and restricted entry to its premises in an updated terrorism alert.
Security operatives on Monday arrested two terror suspects at Trademore Estate in Lugbe area of Abuja.
It was gathered that
the ISWAP fighters relocated to the FCT following the heavy bombardment of their enclaves and camps in the North-West by Nigerian Air Force fighter jets.
Security sources revealed that the terror suspects were planning a big attack in Abuja before the security agencies launched the counter-intelligence operations against them.
It was further learnt that the detained fighters gave useful information which had led to the arrest of some of their members in the FCT and satellite towns posing as artisans, cart pushers and security guards in different parts of the city.
A senior officer quoted by Punch said, ‘’A massive counter-intelligence operation is going on to disrupt, neutralise and destroy the ISWAP terrorists in the FCT. Many commanders and their foot soldiers have been arrested and they are currently helping us in our investigations. About five commanders and 30 fighters have been apprehended but we expect to capture more suspects as we widen our dragnet.’’
DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, told Punch he had not been briefed on the arrest of the terrorists, when contacted .
But the Director, Defence Information, Major Jimmy Akpor did not pick up calls to his line and has yet to respond to a text message sent to him by Punch on the matter.
Meanwhile, in another update on Wednesday, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office again restated its warning of an increased threat of terrorist attack in Abuja.
Punch reports that despite the assurances of the Federal Government that the security agencies had a handle on the security situation, the British Government cautioned its nationals against travel to the FCT and 14 other states in the country.
The travel advice was made available to journalists in Abuja on Thursday, underscoring the gravity of the state of affairs.
The statement was titled, ‘FCDO updates travel advice to British nationals travelling to the Federal Capital Territory, including Abuja.’
It read, ‘’FCDO has updated its travel advice on 26 October to British nationals. The FCDO now advises against all but essential travel to the Federal Capital Territory, including the city of Abuja.
‘’The updated advice outlines that there is an increased threat of terrorist attack in Abuja. British nationals are advised to stay alert, avoid non-essential travel within the city and follow the local news and the advice of security authorities.
“The British High Commission remains open for essential services. The travel advice will constantly be reviewed to make sure it reflects the current situation in Abuja and Nigeria. FCDO travel advice exists to inform British nationals so they can make decisions about travelling abroad.
“Other states in Nigeria where we advise against all but essential travel include Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Kogi, Abia, Plateau, Taraba, within 20km of the border with Niger in Kebbi State and non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states.’’
Punch correspondents who went around the FCT on Thursday observed that the traffic on the usually busy roads was light as many routes were deserted.
Areas devoid of the usual traffic gridlock include Wuse, Berger roundabout, Utako and other commercial areas.
At the US Embassy in Area 10, Garki, the environment was tense as security operatives questioned commuters plying the route.
A private security guard told Punch correspondent that the embassy had shut down for now and was not attending to the public.
The mission could not be reached for comments as an inquiry sent to the official email address was not answered but an official who spoke on condition of anonymity said, ‘’We have shut down the Abuja mission for now but those who need our services can go to the consulate in Lagos where normal activities are going on.’’
The same situation was observed at the British High Commission which was guarded by armed policemen.
Punch observed normal activities at the other diplomatic missions, including Ghana, China, Canada, Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire.
Punch correspondent equally noticed that many federal workers did not report for duty as checks at the Federal Secretariat indicate that some workers did turn up.
A civil servant who simply identified herself as Maryann justified her absence from the office in a phone interview.
“Who do you want me to believe when the US Embassy said there’s an elevated risk and the FG is saying otherwise? It is not only work that I have been avoiding since the advisory was released, I have also not been to the market and other places as safety precautions,’’ she stated.
A senior official postponed a scheduled media interview with our correspondent, stating that he did not go to the office on account of the security situation in the city.
Arising from the security alert, the Jabi Lake Mall shut its doors to shoppers on Thursday.