Nigeria’s army has arrested two soldiers allegedly caught trying to ferry a large quantity of arms and ammunition to Boko Haram Islamic extremists, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman said the two were sappers, or combat engineers, who worked in an explosive ordinance unit in the northeast where Boko Haram commits most attacks, and may have trained insurgents in bomb-making.
Ina related development, at least 70 people have been killed in a double suicide bombing at a camp sheltering people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria.
The bombers, both female, detonated their explosives while the camp’s residents were queuing for rations.
The victims, at the Dikwa camp in Borno state, were mostly women and children.
Islamist Boko Haram militants have been attacking civilian targets as the Nigerian military seeks to wrest territory from their control.
Some soldiers have told the AP that Boko Haram has infiltrated Nigeria’s security forces and some fight with the army by day and with the extremists by night.
Usman spoke at a news conference where he also reported that in recent days the military has killed 35 extremists and rescued about 300 civilians held by Boko Haram.
His statements come a day after Nigeria’s Secret Service said it arrested an alleged recruiter for the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, identified as Abdussalam Enesi Yunusa. It did not give his nationality. The Secret Service said two Nigerians already are training in Libya with IS.
The camp at Dikwa is reportedly home to about 50,000 people displaced by the violence.
‘Would-be bomber spotted parents and siblings’
The attack took place on Tuesday morning, but details of it are only just emerging. At least 67 people had been injured, many of them severely, a local official told the BBC.
Three women equipped with bombs had entered the camp early, the chairman of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Satomi Ahmed, told the AFP news agency.
He said the third woman had surrendered to the authorities, refusing to detonate her explosives “when she realised her parents and siblings were in the camp”.
Last year, a military operation involving troops from several countries – including Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad – began to weaken Boko Haram’s control over areas in north-eastern Nigeria where it had declared a caliphate.
While the militants may be unable to carry out major attacks on military targets, they seem to have no difficulty using young women to enter heavily guarded camps for the displaced.
Boko Haram pledged allegiance to IS last year. IS propaganda has urged militants who cannot reach Iraq or Syria to go to Africa and fight in Libya or join Boko Haram, but there has been no evidence of IS fighters in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari declared in December that Nigeria’s military has “technically” won the war against Boko Haram, forcing the militants from towns and villages across a swath of the northeast where they had declared an Islamic caliphate.
Boko Haram has changed tactics, hitting soft targets like remote villages and carrying out multiple suicide bombings in cities. A twin suicide bombing Tuesday killed 58 people in a refugee camp. A Jan. 30 attack on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the command center of the war on Boko Haram, killed 92 people.
The group’s six-year insurgency has killed some 20,000 people and driven more than two million people from their homes.