Maiduguri — A Boko Haram leader arrested early Wednesday morning in Kaduna had regularly visited the hideout where he was found just meters away from a police station, neighbours told Daily Trust yesterday.
This revelation came hours before the sect said in a teleconference in Maiduguri yesterday that the captured man was head of enlightenment Abu Dardaa, and not spokesman Abul Qaqa as claimed by security officials. The sect also said the man was trailed and arrested after they were deceived into engaging in dialogue with government representatives.
A witness to the pre-dawn operation in which the man was arrested said State Security Service officers stormed the area at about 2am and headed straight to a rented home at Mubi Close, off Maiduguri Road in Kaduna, where they arrested the man reported to be Abul Qaqa, another man and a woman.
The witness said he came out from his nearby room to urinate by the street when he saw armed men in mufti, who bawled at him to lay down.
“I came out from my room, which is very close to the house, to ease myself when the SSS officials made me to lay flat on the ground for a long time.
“I didn’t know what was happening neither did I know that those men were SSS officials. My initial thought was that I fell into the track of hoodlums. After they searched the house, they brought out two men and a woman and it was at that point that they asked me to go back into my room,” the witness said.
He said the SSS men did not arrest any other person in the area apart from those three.
Mubi Close is a serene area having mainly rented rooms.
Some of the people living in the house where the Boko Haram man was picked hail from Kogi State, neighbours said.
Another resident of the area, who also preferred anonymity, said he knows the woman that was arrested with Abul Qaqa as a divorcee.
“I know the woman. It was her former husband who brought her to that house. I know (the husband) as a staff of the Kaduna refinery. When he divorced the woman, she remained in the house.
“There was the time I had a business transaction with the woman. She asked me to bring some materials for her that somebody promised to link her up with a top government official. When I brought the materials, I realised that there was a foul play and that was how I abandoned that business.
“The other man that was arrested with the woman is a Christian but I learnt that he is the husband of the woman’s sister. The man that is being suspected to be Abul Qaqa is a quiet man and nobody in this area associates with him. He quietly comes here and when he comes across people, he would only say the Muslims greetings (Assalamu Alaikum).”
He added: “Sometimes people in big cars come to see him.”
The owners of the house where Abul Qaqa was arrested are some orphans, the witness said.
“The house is an old house, the owner has died long ago and some of his children now own the house. I know that a tenant can stay in the house without coming in contact with the owners. All transactions about the house are done through a caretaker,” he said.
The resident added that people of the area are suspecting that the woman is the host of Abul Qaqa.
“The woman has many younger brothers, therefore it is difficult to differentiate who is what. Apart from that, many people visit that woman,” he said.
Kaduna State Director of SSS, Mr Yomi Zamba, did not answer calls made to him to seek his comments over the arrest. He also did not reply to a text message sent to him.
Also, spokeswoman for the SSS headquarters in Abuja did not answer her calls yesterday, and no government official was immediately available for comments.
But on Wednesday, Borno State Director of SSS was quoted to have told the Associated Press news agency that Abul Qaqa was arrested after being tracked through signals sent by his cell phone.
A security source told Daily Trust yesterday that the arrested Boko Haram chieftain was being interrogated in Abuja, and has confessed that his real name is Mohammed Shuaibu but had variously used the names Mohammed Bello Abdullahi, Abu Taimiyya, Abdulrahim Abdullahi and Abu Dardaa.
‘Our man was deceived in the name of dialogue’
Last night, a man who claimed to be the real Abul Qaqa held a teleconference with journalists in Maiduguri, claiming that the arrested Boko Haram chief is Abu Dardaa and not the spokesman for the sect.
The caller said Abu Dardaa is head of the Lagina (department) of public enlightenment for the sect.
He said Abu Dardaa was trailed and picked by operatives of the SSS shortly after he had an interaction with some “key functionaries of the Federal Government on the issue of dialogue.”
“The person that was arrested was Abu Dardaa and not Abul Qaqa. I am Abul Qaqa, the spokesman of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad. Of course, Abu Dardaa is a senior member of our group who plays key role on public enlightenment. The arrest of Dardaa is an outright deception and betrayal by the Nigerian government and security agents….
“The arrest of Dardaa has proven to us that security agents were anxiously waiting for us to avail ourselves so that they can arrest us.
“Based on agreement and mutual understanding, we purposely sent Abu Dardaa to Kaduna to discuss with some key government functionaries on the issue of dialogue. Indeed, he had discussed with some officials but unknown to him, shortly after the meeting, they directed some security agents to trail him behind and later arrested him,” the purported spokesman said.
“Despite the risk and dangers involved, Dardaa had volunteered to present himself for the dialogue but was betrayed, all of us were betrayed. Everybody knows our capability and tactics of operation and it is clear that none of our members could be caught on a platter of gold and without confrontation, just the way Dardaa was picked,” he said.
“We initially thought that the much thought about dialogue was true and we actually resolved that after the initial meeting, we would send five representatives to stand for us.
“Part of what we told Dardaa to discuss with the government representatives was the unconditional release of our members as pre-condition for any further discussion. I want to reiterate that even with his arrest, we want all our members to be released for peace to return and for dialogue to hold,” he added.
The purported spokesman also said the sect was responsible for the death of seven men found slaughtered in Maiduguri on Wednesday night, and that the seven were killed because they betrayed the 11 sect members killed by the military on Saturday.
“We have earmarked 30 of them for execution because they betrayed our group. They exposed our 11 members who were summarily shot dead by the Joint Task Force on Saturday,” he said.