The attacks are planned to be carried out successively, first, in Gusau, then Birnin Kebbi, and finally Katsina, the military told the correctional service
Terrorists are planning more prison attacks targeting facilities in Gusau, Birnin Kebbi, and Katsina to free their imprisoned fighters, military intelligence sources have said, a warning already passed to the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS).
The attacks are planned to be carried out successively, first, in Gusau, then Birnin Kebbi, and finally Katsina, the military told the correctional service, according to officials familiar with the transmission of the intelligence and documents sighted by PREMIUM TIMES. The phased plan, sources said, is because the terrorists are unable to mobilise sufficient logistical capabilities to strike simultaneously in three states.
All the target facilities are in Nigeria’s North-west facing aggravated violence by terrorists, often called bandits, and other violent extremist groups like Boko Haram, Ansaru, and ISWAP, who have expanded into the region in the past years from the North-east.
A rare collaboration of ISWAP and Ansaru, two Boko Haram splinter groups, produced the audacious July 6 Kuje prison attack in the federal capital, Abuja, researchers and negotiators with an understanding of the working of the terrorists said. The attack showed the terrorists’ capacity to exploit Nigeria’s worsening vulnerability under President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a new video depicting the torture of kidnapped victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, believed to be a terrorist act, one of the armed men claimed to be a Kuje prison escapee. The terrorists have repeatedly said the government knows what they want to free the captives. Intelligence sources say they are seeking the release of their jailed members in exchange for the freedom of the train attack victims
In its latest warning, the military said the terror attack”may be staged” on a Friday, explicitly indicating this Friday, 29 July, for the first in Gusau, Zamfara State.
Describing the logic behind striking on a Friday, military intelligence sources said that is when the terrorists believe senior prison officials would have travelled for the weekend or stayed off duty at their various homes. In addition, at such time, the terrorists perceive that it could be easier to compromise warders to smuggle logistical coordination items, like telephones, into the prisons.
A source, who has worked with the government on counter-insurgency and helped obtain intelligence from the communications of imprisoned terrorists, said the information flow between terrorists in and out of prisons depends on telephone communications facilitated by compromised warders.
To circumvent counter-intelligence, the source said after each communication, the SIM card used is destroyed or thrown away and another is procured for them by compromised warders next time. In one case, the source said, several trashed SIM cards were recovered in the grasses behind the Kuje prison facility after an inmate was tortured to confess how the communication occurred.
Hibernating in neighbourhoods
The military said the terrorists’ plans include the relocation of the required fighters and arms to areas hosting or close to the target prisons.
In the case of Gusau, which the military specifically said the terrorists plan to attack this Friday, fighters would move to the Ungwan Gwaza neighbourhood, which hosts the Gusau prison. They would hibernate there “with relations” till the time the attack is to be carried out.
Similarly, the military said the Kofar Soro area of Katsina would host terrorists ahead of the planned Katsina prison attack “within the month of August”. The prison is located at Kofar Soro, which also hosts the emir’s palace, a police station, and a big mosque, Google Earth shows.
For Birnin Kebbi, the terrorists plan to attack with some fighters relocated to an area called Kwaido in Augie LGA of Kebbi State. Analysis of Google Maps suggests this area is more than two hours away from the capital Birnin Kebbi.
The military further warned that the terrorists might be staying with their relatives within the quarters of the correctional service’s staff.
In view of the uncovered planned attacks, the military has asked the correctional service to “beef up” security measures around the affected facilities, PREMIUM TIMES has been told. Specifically, the military requested heightened vigilance and increased collaboration with security agencies to forestall the “subversive acts” of the terrorists.
The spokesperson for the correctional service, Abubakar Umar, said he would not make specific comments on the warning from the military intelligence, which PREMIUM TIMES understands was transmitted at the end of the past week. But Mr Umar said following the Kuje attack, the service has deployed more officials, including armed squads to facilities.
“Our intelligence system has been raised and we are working with other security agencies to ensure our facilities are protected nationwide against further attacks,” Mr Umar said.
Military spokesperson Jimmy Akpor, a major general, did not comment for this story after a message describing our findings was sent to him. He also did not answer telephone calls.
Since 2017, Nigeria has suffered at least 12 prison breaks and attacks with more than a thousand inmates including dangerous criminals released into society. There were also more than 15 failed attempts, officials told PREMIUM TIMES.