Nigerian security forces are conducting a house-to-house search for weapons in the northeastern city of Maiduguri in a bid to end attacks by Islamic militants.
The operation started on Nov. 1 after the expiration of a deadline for residents to turn in illegal weapons and explosives at designated centers, Colonel Hassan Mohammed, spokesman for the Joint Military Task Force, said today by phone from the city. More than 1,000 light weapons were handed in at just one collection center, he said.
“We made arrests in large numbers of those that refused to hand in their illegal weapons and they are going to be prosecuted,” Mohammed said.
Authorities in Nigeria blame Boko Haram, a militant group inspired by the Taliban, for a spate of attacks in the past year in Africa’s top oil producer that targeted government buildings and the security forces. The group claimed responsibility for an Aug. 26 suicide car-bomb attack on a United Nations building that killed 23 people in the capital, Abuja.
Boko Haram today criticized the weapons-gathering exercise, describing it as a ploy to disarm residents before a government crackdown.
“The federal government wants to disarm you and later launch attacks on you,” Abu Qaqa, a spokesman for the group, said today in a statement handed to reporters in the city. “Don’t surrender your weapons.”
The joint task force plans to expand the search to the suburbs and villages around Maiduguri, Mohammed said.