HABIBU Bama, the suspected brains behind some of the deadliest attacks by the killer terrorist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram was captured Thursday in the restive city of Damaturu, Yobe State.
Bama’s arrests comes as the US government on the same day named three alleged leaders of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram as "foreign terrorists," the first time it has blacklisted members of the Islamist group.
Prior to the Thursday action by the US government, some influential figures in Nigeria had expressed opposition to a blanket citing of Boko Haram as a terror organization by American authorities, expressing the fear that such classification may endanger the safety of Nigerians in general.
“How will they know Boko Haram” asked Dr. Lateef Adegbite, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs on Thursday, adding that “if I travel there with my beards, they can take me for what I am not.
“We should appeal to them to give Nigeria more time and chance to gradually suppress them (Boko Haram) and they (security operatives) are making progress,” he said.
The US State Department identified the three members of Boko Haram as Abubakar Shekau, calling him the "most visible" leader of the group, and Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi, who it said were tied both to Boko Haram and to al Qaeda's north African wing.
"These designations demonstrate the United States' resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks," it said, saying that Boko Haram or associated militants were responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the past 18 months.
The Obama administration had been under pressure at home to take stronger action against Boko Haram, which has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year in its drive to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.
U.S. officials say the decision to list individual Boko Haram members, rather than apply the more sweeping "Foreign Terrorist Organization" label to the group as a whole as some U.S. lawmakers have demanded, reflected a desire not to elevate the group's profile.
"We took this measure to designate these three because they are clearly kingpins of Boko Haram and clearly all of them have advocated terrorism as a weapon," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.
"We're continuing to look at the question of a broader designation."
The action freezes any assets the three men have in the United States, and bars U.S. persons from any transactions with them.
State Security Service, SSS, had declared Bama wanted earlier this year, saying "Habibu Bama is an ex-soldier from Bama, Borno State. He is also known by the following names: Habib Bama, Shuaibu Bama, and Habib Mamman.”
Although his capture is certain to have occurred on Thursday, conflicting reports on the manner of Bama’s arrest continue to emerge, with some saying he was killed during the arrest bid.
Military sources credited the curfew imposed on the besieged city of Damaturu for playing a role in Bama’s capture, as the relaxed curfew allegedly forced him out of his lair to replenish his supplies in food and other needs. It was during his shopping that he was nabbed by security agents.