MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - A senior member of the Islamist sect Boko Haram has been arrested at the home of a senator in the group’s stronghold in northeastern Nigeria, the military said on Saturday, adding to evidence that the group has ties to government officials.
Boko Haram is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria and its fighters have killed hundreds in bomb and gun attacks since launching an uprising in 2009.
Military spokesman Sagir Musa said the arrest was made on Thursday in the Boko Haram stronghold of Maiduguri.
“Shuaibu Mohammed Bama, who has been on the wanted list lists of terrorists ... was arrested by the task force troops in a serving senator’s house,” he said.
Musa did not say who the senator was. In January, President Goodluck Jonathan said Boko Haram had infiltrated all levels of government, without giving details.
At least 2,800 people have died in fighting since Boko Haram’s rebellion began, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. The sect has become the main security threat in Africa’s top energy producer, and Western powers are worried about its growing links to more fiercely anti-Western jihadist groups in the region.
A recent crackdown by the military has brought a lull in the more coordinated and deadly attacks seen early this year but violence in remote areas of the predominantly Muslim north continues almost daily.
Gunmen killed a Chinese construction worker in Maiduguri on Friday, witnesses and an engineer with his firm told Reuters. In Potiskum on Saturday, a town in neighboring northeast Yobe state, gunmen stormed the home of a former customs officer and killed him and three others, witnesses said.
HRW has said that both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces may have committed crimes against humanity during their conflict. The heavy-handed tactics of the army help feed support for Boko Haram, security experts say.
Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza; additional reporting by Isaac Abrak in Kaduna; Writing by Joe Brock, editing by Rosalind Russell