Police officials reported late Wednesday that gunmen riding on motorcycles have kidnapped a German national in northeastern Nigeria.
Adamawa police spokesman confirmed the incident, which occurred during the early morning hours in the town of Gombi, stating, “security agents are working assiduously to track down the kidnappers and free the hostage.” A German foreign ministry spokesman has indicated that he “was aware of the case” however the official declined to comment further. The identity of the German citizen has not been released.
Residents in Gombi, located 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Yola, the capital of Adamawa state, have identified the hostage as an instructor at a government-run technical training center, disclosing that he was attacked by about twenty gunmen outside his home in the Anguwa Faransa neighborhood, the French quarters of the city, as he left for work. One local resident reported “the kidnappers were riding on 10 motorcycles, two on each, and laid ambush around the house of the German expatriate.” The German expatriate works at the Technical Training Center (TTC), which has been set up by the regional government in Adamawa to combat the massive youth unemployment in the region. Local sources have reported that there are a number of German expatriates working at the Center.
No immediate claim of responsibility has been confirmed, however initial blame has fallen on Boko haram. While the militant group is opposed to schools teaching a so-called Western curriculum, and has in the past launched attacks targeting students and teachers, Ansaru, an offshoot of Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of at least eight foreigners in northern Nigeria since 2012. While the group has been largely dormant for more than a year, this latest kidnapping may signify that the group is ready to target foreigners in the region in a bid to fund the on going insurgency. The 2013 abduction, and subsequent release of a French family of seven, including four children, across Nigeria’s northeastern border in Cameroon is believed to have netted Boko Haram a ransom payment of several million dollars.
Police and residents reported Tuesday that an explosion ripped through a football viewing centre in Damaturu, northern Nigeria, as fans were gathering to watch a World Cup game.
The blast, which occurred at the Crossfire venue, in the Nayi-Nawa area of the state capital of Yobe, occurred shortly after the tournament began at 8:00 PM (1900 GMT). Unconfirmed reports have indicated that a suicide bomber has killed at least twenty-one people and wounded twenty-seven. Sanusi Ruf’ai, police commissioner for Yobe state, confirmed the attack, stating “there was an explosion outside a soccer viewing center here in Damaturu at around 8:15 PM….Our men have deployed to the scene but it’s too early for us to give details.” On the ground sources have reported that the area has been cordoned off and that police and soldiers are investigating, while eyewitnesses have indicated that the suicide bomber, who was in a tricycle taxi, detonated explosives as people were watching the match. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, suspicions have fallen on Boko Haram, as the militant group has previously targeted big screen venues showing soccer matches.
The latest blast comes after at least two Nigerian states banned viewing centers on security grounds following previous similar attacks, which have been blamed on Boko Haram militants. Last week, authorities in Adamawa state closed viewing centers, where large crowds gather to watch the matches on large screens. The central state of Plateau followed suit days later. The decision by authorities to close the viewing centers is in response to repeated threats by the militant group and a blast that occurred earlier this month. A bomb went off after a football match in the town of Mubi in Adamawa state. The incident killed at least forty people. In May, three people were killed in a blast outside a viewing center that was showing the European Champions League final in the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state, while in April, suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed a packed venue in Potiskum, in northeastern Yobe state, shooting dead two people as they watched the Champions League quarter-final matches.
Boko haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has previously preached against football and has threated to carry out attacks during this year’s World Cup football tournament. In several video clips, he described football and music as a Western ploy to distract Muslims from their religion. While football is Nigeria’s national sport, and has many followers, many residents living in the northern regions of the country have indicated that they will watch the World Cup at home because of fears of Boko Haram attacks.
Similar fears have also put a number of east African nations on high alert amidst fears that Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked-al-Shabaab will carryout similar attacks during football screenings.
Earlier this week, officials in Britain released warnings to citizens in several east African nations, including Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, warning of the threat of terrorist attacks at public screenings of the World Cup games. A statement released by Britain’s Foreign Office indicated “previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed,” adding that crowded areas, including “transport hubs, hotels, restaurants and bars” are possible targets for the militant group.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three states after a series of deadly attacks were carried out by Boko Haram militants. MS Risk advises any individuals or companies in the states of Adamawa, Borno or Yobe to remain vigilant and to monitor any developments and to be alert to any further announcements made by State Government. We currently advise against all travel to Borno State, Yobe State, Adamawa State as well as Gombe State and Bauchi State. This is due to the continued threat of violent attacks. Recent attacks in these regions have focused on public places, including restaurants and bars, and have resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries. If you are planning to work in northern Nigeria, even in those regions which are not subject to specific travel advisories, we advise you that you will require a high level of security. Any employers in the region should be reviewing their security arrangements, especially in light of the recent kidnappings of westerners from protected compounds.
In a state address late on Tuesday, President Jonathan indicated that the military would be taking “all necessary action” to “put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists” in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. He further noted that “what we
are facing is not just militancy or criminality, but a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose a very serious threat to national unity and territorial integrity.” This is in reference to the recent attacks that have occurred on government buildings as well as the killings of officials and other civilians in which the President has indicated that “these actions amount to a declaration of war.” The announcement is also the first time that the President has acknowledged that Boko Haram Islamists have “taken over “ parts of Borno state.
The President also ordered that more troops be deployed to states located in the hostile north-eastern region of the country. Since the state of emergency declaration, Nigeria’s military has announced a massive deployment of troops to the region. Military sources have also indicated that fighter jets would be deployed, raising the possibility that Nigeria could carry out air strikes within its own territory. Since the announcement, top US officials have called on Nigeria to protect the rights of its civilians and to avoid any “heavy-handed” response against the rebels. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell has stated that “we call on Nigerian officials to ensure that Nigeria’s security forces protect civilians in any security response in a wy that respects human rights and the rule of law.” He further added that “we have made clear to the Nigerian government that its heavy-handed response to insecurity in northern Nigeria and the failure to address human rights violations will potentially affect our ability to provide security assistance going forward.”
Although the state of emergency was declared in the states of Yobe and Adamawa, it is widely believed that the military offensive will focus directly on the state of Borno, which shares borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It is in this state that Boko Haram, which states that it is fighting in order to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, has used the capital, Maiduguri, as its home base. However it is known that Boko Haram fighters have relocated to the remote border regions following a number of crackdowns that have occurred in the city. Furthermore, the regions‘ porous borders have enabled criminal groups and weapons to freely move between the countries further exasperated due to the Nigerian’s military limited presence in these areas.