Boko Haram leader could be tried in U.S., says official

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abubakar_shekau_boko_haramThe U.S. government on Tuesday said the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, accused of terrorism activities in Nigeria, could be tried in the U.S. when caught.

Kurt Rice, the U.S. Acting Assistant Director of Diplomatic Security Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate, said this at a joint tele-news conference with David Gilmour, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.

The tele-conference was aired to audiences in Abuja, Accra, Dakar, Lagos and Niamey.

Rice’s comments came a day after the U.S. offered a 23 million dollars (about N3.6bn) reward for information on the location of five leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram.

All the suspects named in the first U.S. Rewards for Justice Programme for the sub-region were accused of being the mastermind of different cases of kidnap of foreigners and terror activities in West Africa.

Rice said that Shekau when apprehended could be charged before a Nigerian court or “the courts of partner nations whether in Nigeria, North or West Africa.’’

He expressed the hope that the capture of the Boko Haram leader would “check’’ the deadly attacks in the country linked to the militant group in the past.

“Our intent is to bring him before a court.

“Our intent in offering this reward at this time is to work with our Nigeria partners to try and make (Nigeria) a more stable and secure area,’’ he added.

Rice said the U.S. rewards for Justice programme had a “track record’’ that had paid out 125 million dollars (about N19.8bn) to more than 80 people, who provided information leading to the arrest of terrorists, since 1984.

“The fact is that this is a shared fight against terrorism.

“This is one tool we have against terrorism and we find that overtime it has been enormously effective and it has saved a lot of lives and we want to continue doing that,’’ he said.

Under the latest reward programme, he said the Obama administration offered five million dollars (N792.4m) rewards on Al-Qaeda’s Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

He was accused of being responsible for the Algerian gas plant attack that killed three Americans and 34 other foreigners in January.

An additional five million dollars (N792.4M) was offered to help arrest AQIM leader Yahya Abou Al-Hammam, believed to have been involved in the murder of an elderly French hostage in Niger in 2010.

The rewards programme also targeted Malik Abou Abdelkarim, a senior fighter with AQIM, and Oumar Ould Hamaha, the spokesman for Mali’s Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.

A thee million dollar (N475.4m) cash reward was also offered for any information leading to their arrest.

Also speaking, Gilmour ruled out suggestions that the seven million dollar (N1.1bn) bounty offered on the head of Shekau could be counter-productive to Nigeria government amnesty offer to the insurgents.

Gilmour reiterated the U.S. position that security-based solution was not the only way to address the current security challenges in Nigeria.

He said the U.S. recognised that among Northern Nigeria there were legitimate grievances such as social inequality and youth unemployment.

“We urge the Nigeria government to take seriously those grievances of the general population of Northern Nigeria,’’ he said.

He advised Nigeria security operatives, currently conducting military operations in three North Eastern states, under the state of emergency rule, to try and build the confidence of the population to keep them safe.

The U.S. diplomat on Africa said his government was working closely with Nigeria on security and counter-terrorism issues.

“It is a multi-faceted programmes that requires a multi-faceted response,” he said.

 

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