A leading Muslim group in Nigeria has dismissed allegations by the country's secret police that several Muslim suspects in northern Nigeria are linked to terrorist organizations. The group says security agencies are out to slander Nigerian Muslims and are calling on President Umaru YarAdua to intervene. Gilbert DaCosta has details from the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
In a statement, the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria described the allegations by the State Security Service, the SSS, as wild accusations instigated by vested interests within and outside Nigeria.
"We are complaining about double standards in the treatment of Muslims and Christians by the SSS," said Nafiu Baba-Ahmed, the spokesman for the group. "Secondly, the implementation by the SSS of American agenda, which is to slander and molest Muslims, and label them terrorists, which happens to coincide with the agenda of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Innocent individuals will simply come and when arrested, hounded and put in underground cells. We are fed up."
Five Nigerian suspected terrorists, with alleged links to the al-Qaida terrorist network, were charged last month in Abuja. Prosecutors say the suspects, Muslim men in their 30s, were trained in Algeria to attack targets in Africa's most populous country.
Shehu Sani, a researcher in northern Nigeria with extensive knowledge of security issues in the Muslim-dominated region, says security agencies have a duty to investigate threats to national security.
"We are talking about the security situation in the country, we are talking about terrorism, we are talking about issues that have to with the possibility of the breakdown of law and order," said Sani. "The insinuation proffered by the Shariah Supreme Council is simply borne out of sentiments and illogical. What we have on ground in this part of the country is that organizations and groups are affiliated to groups outside the country, of which the government or security agencies have no knowledge of."
Western diplomats have warned that Nigeria, which has a large Muslim population, could become a breeding ground for international terrorist groups like al-Qaida.
Muslim leaders in Nigeria have reacted angrily to such insinuations.