Security service organisations, including the Department of State Service (DSS), have reportedly identified an Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) network operating within some north-central and south-south states.
Benue, Kogi and Edo states were identified in a security report.
According to NAN, this information is contained in a security report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by some security service outfits.
The report indicated that ISWA network was using foreign militants and recruiting young men to fight and kill innocent persons ostensibly to exacerbate tensions along the county’s ethnic, religious and regional fault lines.
Quoting a presidency source, NAN said the discovery was made following the arrest of several suspected attackers made up herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other suspects in Benue state.
The source was quoted as saying among those in custody were many who spoke none of the languages native to Nigeria but the French language.
“This is the first time that security officials have confirmed that the Islamic State in West Africa members are operating as a unit in Nigeria and the level of their penetration of the country,’’ the source added.
The source said a “good number”of the Islamic State militants had been arrested not only in the Benue valley but significantly in several towns in Edo, specifically in Akoko-Edo, Okpella and Benin as well as in Okene, in Kogi.
“It is understood that the cell, which has members in different parts of the country concentrates on recruiting young men to fight for the Islamic State in West Africa by unleashing the cold-blooded murder of innocent citizens,” the source said.
“There was intelligence that they had planned several attacks here, before and during Christmas and the New Year. Their bombing targets included fuel depots, foreign missions and police and military establishments.
“Their network is very wide. But so much was achieved by the DSS which had made a significant number of arrests in the last two months that helped to preempt those attacks.
“This helped to save Nigeria from the spate of major terrorist attacks witnessed elsewhere that were syndicated by ISIS worldwide.”
The reports submitted to the presidency also revealed that “security officials now fear an influx of other ISIS members into many parts of the country”.
“We are learning more and more about this complex and sophisticated network,” the source reportedly said.
“This is the main reason why the secret service is not parading those suspects so far arrested. It has become clear to us by now, that the challenge facing this country is a serious one.”
When contacted, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said Buhari had been receiving what he described as “report upon report on the situation in Benue and other states”.
According to him, the DSS has recorded a lot of success lately but said he had not been briefed on any of those reports.