Friday, February 27, 2004

Nigeria: Investigating Wahhabi insurection and Saudi funds.

Date: Friday 27 February 2004
Subj: Nigeria: Investigating Wahhabi insurection and Saudi funds.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

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NIGERIA: INVESTIGATING WAHHABI INSURECTION AND SAUDI FUNDS.
- what terror is breeding in the northern sharia states?
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On 25 January 2004, UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported, "Nigerian security agencies have in the past voiced concerns about the activities of certain Islamic preachers whom they feared were radicalising Muslims in parts of the north. Many were suspected of having links to terrorist groups and foreign organisations.

"In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, several Afghan and Pakistani preachers and other residents were arrested and deported because, according to the authorities, they could not give satisfactory explanations of their mission in Nigeria." (Link 1)

UN IRIN expressed the concern that a recent violent but failed insurrection in the northern state of Yobe by the Wahhabi militant group Al Sunna wal Jamma ("Followers of the Prophet") could be evidence that extremist Islamist ideology and terrorism could become a threat to Nigeria's peace and security.

The recent arrest in Kano of a Sudanese Islamist named Sheikh Muhiddin Abdullahi confirms the fears of analysts who have suspected that the northern sharia states would become an incubator for radical Islamist ideology and a breeding ground for militants.

It is alleged that Sheikh Muhiddin Abdullahi helped channel funds from Saudi Arabia through his Almundata Al-Islam Foundation to Al Sunna wal Jamma. (Link 2)

The Almundata Al-Islam Foundation is a "charity" that builds new mosques in Nigeria - 42 in Kano). It promotes Wahhabi Islam and is funded by wealthy Saudis. It has been reported that Malam Mohammed Yusuf, who is believed to be the ideological leader of the Al Sunna wal Jamma, has fled to Saudi Arabia. Nigeria has asked Interpol to help apprehend him. Meanwhile, officers of the State Security Service have taken Sheikh Muhiddin Abdullahi and his associate Alhaji Sharu, a Kano-based businessman, to Abuja for questioning.

Nigerian authorities are now trying to unravel the extensive network of cells through which Islamist militants are being recruited from all across Nigeria and beyond. They are also trying to put together the details of how this group got its weapons and training. The Al Sunna wal Jamma militants in custody in Yobe are mostly well-educated university students and the children of "notable" Nigerians. The police are not releasing their names.

The growing evidence of foreign involvement in Islamist militancy in Nigeria is grounds for concern, especially as UN IRIN points out, "Nigeria was mentioned alongside Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia in a tape purportedly released by Osama bin Laden, the fugitive leader of Al Qaeda, as a country where Muslims need to be liberated."

[Quote from bin Laden's audio-message aired by al-Jazeera on 11 February 2003, "The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia], and Yemen."]

UN IRIN reports (25 Jan), "Political analysts and security officials fear the emergence of the Al Sunna Wal Jamma (Followers of the Prophet) group may be an indication that extremist Islamic groups have found enough foothold in Nigeria to make Africa's most populous country a theatre for worse sectarian violence than it has seen in recent years and acts of terrorism.

"'What I find striking is that the group had operated in Nigeria for some time, had a cell network of members that included highly educated people and could use weapons,' said Ike Onyekwere, a political analyst. 'Though they appear to have been put to flight, there is a chance they might still regroup and emerge in another, perhaps more deadly form.'"

BACKGROUND: THE DECEMBER 2003 INSURRECTION IN YOBE

In the last days of December 2003, some 200 Muslims of a fanatical strict Islamic sect known as Al Sunna Wal Jamma or "Followers of the Prophet", and led by a man calling himself "Mullah Omar", invaded Kanamma and Geidam local government areas of Yobe state. They ransacked the local government headquarters and the police station, killing one local policeman and stealing ammunition. They distributed leaflets complaining that the Yobe state governor, Abba Ibrahim, was corrupt and not complying with Sharia (Islamic law). They then took over a local primary school, renamed it "Afghanistan", hoisted their own Afghan flag and sent local residents into forced exile.

Soldiers had to be deployed to contain and eventually quell the insurrection. In the end, the fighting left three policemen and at least a dozen rebels dead. More than 200 Al Sunna Wal Jamma militants have been taken into custody.

This group had also targeted Damaturu, Yunusari, Toshiya, Dapchi, Babbangida, Bursari and other villages, leaving at least 10,000 people displaced by the insecurity. According to Compass Direct (6 January) the militants designated their base an "Islamic state" and stated that their aim was to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. They also vowed to kill all non-Muslims and declared a holy Islamic war on Christians and the national government.

UN IRIN reported on 5 January 2004, "The Al Sunna Wal Jamma group has been active in Borno and Yobe states over the past two years, preaching strict adherence to Islamic Shari'ah law and expressing admiration for the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. However, this is the first time they have been known to take up arms."

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Muslim fundamentalist uprising raises fears of terrorism
UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
25 January 2004
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=39110

2) Sudanese Arrested, Accused of Funding December Islamic Uprising
UN IRIN 20 February 2004
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=39618
ALSO
Kano Police Arrest Mastermind of Bloody Revolt
Vanguard, Lagos, 21 February 2004
http://allafrica.com/stories/200402230169.html