16 May 2014

The ‘terror mastermind’ who was educated in Wales

Nigeria is seeking the urgent extradition from Sudan of a Boko Haram terror suspect born and educated – and reportedly radicalised – in Britain, Jonathan Miller reports from Abuja.

British intelligence tipped off the Nigerian authorities to the imminent arrival from London of a Boko Haram terrorism suspect as recently as six months ago, a senior Nigerian government offical has told Channel 4 News.

The British-born suspect, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, who is understood to have adopted the name Asadullah – or “Lion of God” – is accused of jointly masterminding two recent bomb attacks on the outskirts of Abuja in which around 100 people died.

The first bombing took place on 14 April. Later the same day another Boko Haram group kidnapped the 273 schoolgirls in Chibok, in the northeastern state of Borno. Both bombs exploded in a poor suburb of Abuja called Nyanya, whose sprawling shanties are home to some of 250,000 Nigerians diplaced by the war against Boko Haram in the north.

International warrant

Mr Ogwuche was arrested in Sudan following the issue of an international warrant and the posting of a £100,000 reward. The Nigerian government says paperwork on his extradition is expected to be completed shortly. On Monday, Nigerian state security paraded five alleged co-conspirators in Abuja.

Mike Omeri, government spokesman and head of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), told us: “In December 2013, we were alerted by the British authorities that they suspected him of working in concert with those involved in terrorist activities. He was picked up coming back from Britain.”

Mr Omeri (see video above) said that Mr Ogwuche had later been released into the protective custody of his father, a retired colonel in the Nigerian army. He then absconded and disappeared.

Channel 4 News has been unable to clarify the discrepancy between earlier reports that the arrest and disappearance had occurred in 2011. Mr Omeri continues to insist that the intelligence tip-off had been received in December 2013.

According to Mr Omeri, the suspect had been back and forth between Nigeria and Britain for years. On its Facebook page, the NOA Briefing Center states that if Mr Ogwuche “was born in the UK and if he has fully met the citizenship requirements of the UK, then indeed he is British”.

In London, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office denied this. An FCO spokesman told Channel 4 News: “There is no evidence that a British national was involved in the Nyanya bombing of 14 April.”

Terror watch-list

The FCO refused to comment on whether Mr Ogwuche had been on the radar of Britain’s domestic or foreign intelligence agencies, but the apparent tip-off to the Nigerian authorities suggests that he had been on their watch-list.

Although the Nigerian authorities have said that Mr Ogwuche, a former lance corporal in Nigerian military intelligence, may have held dual citizenship, the UK authorities appear certain that this is not the case – although we understand that other aspects of the case are still being investigated in the UK.

Nigeria is seeking the urgent extradition from Sudan of a Boko Haram terror suspect born and educated - and reportedly radicalised - in Britain, Jonathan Miller reports from Abuja.

These are thought to include reports that Mr Ogwuche became an adherent of radical Islam as a business science undergraduate in Britain between 2007 and 2010. He reportedly dropped out of the course at the University of Glamorgan – now the University of South Wales – without qualifying. He had previously dropped out of military school in Nigeria and deserted.

Increasingly extreme views

According to a well-sourced news story in Wales Online, Mr Ogwuche lived in Pontypridd and prayed regularly in the university’s campus prayer room. A former acquaintance described him as “devout” but his posts on a social media site indicate that his views became increasingly extreme.

Wales Online cites one post in 2011 in which he wrote: “The only punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is that they should be murdered, or crucified, or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides, or they should be imprisoned.”

In another, he wrote: “We warn you to give up your disobeyance to Allah and surrender to him or wait we bring your humiliation [sic] then you will be regretful and on the knees.”

Boko Haram video shows kidnapped schoolgirls. Watch Jonathan Miller's report from Abuja.

Security sources say Boko Haram today functions as a franchise operation of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), with links to other militant groups in neighbouring countries in the Sahel zone. Some of its commanders have fought and trained with other Islamist fighting groups including Somalia’s al-Shabaab.

But although Boko Haram is likely to have received guns and money from foreign jihadi groups, its stated aims have been largely confined to demands for the imposition of a Taliban-style strict and “pure” Sharia state in the predominantly Muslim states of northern Nigeria.

War against terror

The international links between Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and global jihad have in the past been played up by the Nigerian government in an apparent effort to place what is a relatively local rebellion in the context of a broader international war against terror.

But over more than a decade, the group, whose formal name is Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad (Congregation of Followers of the Prophet involved in the Call to Islam and Religious Struggle) has evolved and morphed into different guises many times.

It may suit the Nigerian government’s interests to cast Aminu Oguche as just a global jihadi. Having failed to contain or crush the insurgency, President Goodluck Jonathan, who on Friday flies to Paris for an international summit on what to do about Boko Haram, now needs all the help he can get.