Nigeria Army Arrests Ansaru Leader

Nigeria Army Arrests Ansaru Leader
Nigeria Army Arrests Ansaru Leader

The Nigerian Army has announced the arrest of Khalid al-Barnawi, leader of the Boko Haram offshoot Ansaru. The US government had offered a multimillion-dollar bounty for his capture.

Nigerian military spokesman, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, said on Sunday al-Barnawi was captured in the capital of Nigeria’s central state of Kogi. The 47-year-old militant from Borno state and his group have been involved in a string of kidnappings of mostly foreigners, AFP reported.

“Security agents made a breakthrough on Friday in the fight against terrorism by arresting Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru terrorist group in Lokoja,” Abubakar said, adding that al-Barnawi was “among those on top of the list of our wanted terrorists.”

Al-Barnawi became leader of the Ansaru militant group in 2012. The faction split from Boko Haram, and is ideologically aligned to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Ansaru’s militants disapproved of Boko Haram’s indiscriminate bombing and shooting campaign, preferring instead high-profile killings and attacks on western interests.

The arrested militant is believed to have masterminded the kidnappings of two British and Italian construction engineers in 2011 and a German engineer in 2012. All the hostages died in failed rescue bids.

Ansaru claimed to have carried out a 2012 attack on a maximum security facility in Abuja, killing two policemen and freeing 40 inmates.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed called the arrest “a great breakthrough in our fight against insurgency in the country”. A serving army officer in Nigeria described al-Barnawi as “a known transnational terrorist and the backbone of all Al-Qaeda affiliate groups in West Africa.”

The US government listed Ansaru in 2012 as “specially designated global terrorists.” It placed a $5 million bounty on al-Barnawi because of his “ties to Boko Haram and (having) close links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”