Nigeria’s military said late Wednesday it arrested a suspect believed to be the mastermind recent attacks on the central city of Jos and the northern town of Zaria. Both attacks killed more than 70 people.
The arrest coincided with a government offer to negotiate with the militant insurgent group Boko Haram, a decision some analysts say contradicts President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge not to negotiate with terrorists.
Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said the arrest of the unnamed mastermind came at a checkpoint in Gombe State.
“As a result of tip-off and cordon and search at a checkpoint in Gombe State, Nigeria, the mastermind of the terrorist act in Jos at a mosque and restaurant and, of course, at the screening exercise in Zaria, Kaduna state, was arrested along with two others,” he said.
Usman declined to provide details on how the arrest came about except to say that it was a “combined operation” between the Department of State Service and federal troops. He said Nigerian security forces were doing everything in their power to deal with the Boko Haram problem.
“If you are quite aware, sometime back, the Boko Haram terrorists were also holding territory here in Nigeria. But, we have succeeded in flushing them out of all those territories. They are now confined to the Sambisa Forest. What you are seeing is a kind of remnant elements that decide to go back to the tactics of bombing isolated or so-called soft targets,” Usman said.
Meanwhile, members of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign calling for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram last year met with Buhari at the presidential villa Wednesday to demand government action.
The Associated Press, quoting a human rights activist, said the insurgent group is offering an exchange of the Chibok schoolgirls for militants held by the government.