LAGOS, NIGERIA —
Nigeria's state security agency said it has arrested Boko Haram members in Abuja, the capital, and its largest city, Lagos – cities usually outside the area of operations for the Islamist extremist group.
The Department of State Services said agents arrested nine suspected Boko Haram members over the last two months in Lagos.
Last week, they also announced the capture of a boy who is suspected of spying on the airport in Abuja, along with arrests in the southeastern city of Enugu and the northern cities of Kano and Gombe.
National security spokesman Mike Omeri said the arrests show Boko Haram is trying to carry out attacks far from its stronghold in the country’s northeast.
“They have intention of escalating the fight. After all, the correct efforts have degraded them and have scattered many of them,” Omeri said.
Targeting vital centers
While Boko Haram has repeatedly carried out bombings and shootings in locations across the north, they’ve only occasionally struck Abuja and its suburbs, and only once succeeded in striking Lagos.
Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst at the risk consultancy firm Red24, said the arrests show Boko Haram wants to hit Nigeria where it hurts the most.
“Both cities from an operational and strategic perspective for Boko Haram would make sense to be targeted, because it would be hitting at Nigeria’s political and respective economic heartland,” Cummings said.
He questioned whether those arrested were indeed from Boko Haram, saying in the past, Nigeria’s security forces have failed to develop intelligence networks that can gather information on the group.
“They’ve been poor in firstly gathering actionable intelligence on the group, and in responding to that intelligence,” Cummings said.
Omeri said the arrests were made after thorough investigations.