The chase after “hearts and minds” costs lives. “APNewsBreak: Nigeria government freed bomb suspect,” by Bashir Adigun and Jon Gambrell for the Associated Press, September 1:
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) “” Nigeria detained and released several radical Muslims suspected of being terrorists in 2007 “” including a man who officials now say helped organize last week’s deadly car bombing at the United Nations headquarters in the nation’s capital, a high-ranking official told The Associated Press.
The men arrested four years ago had allegedly been caught with explosives. Their rapid release from detention was apparently aimed at placating Muslim groups, but it has now come back to haunt security officials who fear a growing wave of al-Qaida-linked terror attacks in Nigeria, a main supplier of oil to the United States.
Some of those arrested in October 2007 were even plotting to carry out attacks in the United States and to attack American targets here, in Africa’s most populous country, said the official, who claimed direct knowledge of the arrests. He spoke on condition of anonymity due to the political sensitivity of the case and because he is not authorized to discuss the matter with journalists. […]
Top security officials in the administration of then-President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim, released the rounded-up men shortly after their arrests, with some facing a few hasty sham trials, the Nigerian official said.
One of those men was Babagana Ismail Kwaljima, also known as Abu Summaya, who was arrested again days before the Aug. 26 bombing at the U.N. compound in Abuja that killed at least 23 people, the Nigerian official said. Kwaljima is accused of helping mastermind the U.N. bombing. A second man was also arrested and police are looking for a third with “al-Qaida links” who recently traveled in Somalia, where an al-Qaida-linked group called al-Shabab is battling the beleaguered U.N.-backed government.
Kwaljima is being held at a military base in Nigeria, according to Nigeria’s secret police. The agency previously arrested him in October 2007 in the northern city of Kano during a roundup of suspected members of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb operating in the country, the official who spoke to AP said. AQIM, as the group is known, generally operates in Saharan nations north of Nigeria.
Secret police spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar declined to comment on Thursday.
Suspected Pakistani members of al-Qaida were arrested in October 2007 along with members of AQIM, the official said. He did not provide numbers of people arrested. News reports that emerged in November 2007 about arrests in the area also did not specify numbers, but identified the men as Nigerians. No foreigners were mentioned. […]
In 2003, Osama bin Laden issued an audio tape calling on Muslims in Nigeria to rise up against one of the “regimes who are slaves of America.” It wasn’t until four years later that strategic links were made between AQIM and Boko Haram, according to Noman Benotman, a former jihadist with links to al-Qaida and an analyst at the London-based Quilliam Foundation. Meanwhile, ties with the Somali militant group seem to have grown stronger.
Some 50 al-Shabab members were arrested in Nigeria recently for plotting attacks on western targets, Benotman said, citing postings made to jihadist websites. Those arrests were not reported by Nigerian media or announced by security agencies.
Last month, the commander for U.S. military operations in Africa told the AP that Boko Haram may be trying to coordinate attacks with al-Shabab and AQIM…