Plan to bomb Abuja is real - U.S insists


IN an apparent reaction to a statement  by the Nigerian authorities  asking Nigerians not to lose any sleep over the United States' warning on Sunday that there were plans by the Boko Haram sect to bomb some hotels in Abuja, the US  declared on Tuesday that its warning was based on a piece of specific and credible information, stressing that the threat was real.

An American diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday that the US would not disclose where the information regarding potential attacks by Boko Haram originated from, but said the US embassy had no choice but to warn its citizens.

Its unusually specific warning was issued in the wake of Friday's coordinated gun and bomb attacks in Nigeria's northeast claimed by Boko Haram that left some 150 people dead and was among the deadliest attributed to the group.

“We certainly took it very seriously,” the diplomat said of the information included in its advisory.

“Given the specificity and the credibility of the threat, we really felt we had no choice but to give our best counsel to Americans.”

Security has been placed on high alert in Abuja and no incidents have occurred. Abuja was last hit in August, when a suicide bomber attacked the United Nations (UN) headquarters, killing 24 people.

Nigerian authorities had described the US warning about potential Abuja attacks “not news.” Media reports on Tuesday quoted a senior security chief who called the US warning “insulting to us as a nation.”

“The current threat of attack on the three hotels in Abuja is not news, and for over three months the security services have taken pro-active measures to protect the designated critical facilities and others,” National Security Adviser Andrew Azazi said in a statement on Monday.

The US diplomat said the embassy did not consult with the Nigerian government before issuing the statement, which warned that hotels and other locations in Abuja could be targeted over the holiday. The embassy wanted to act as soon as possible to warn US citizens, he said.

“Following the recent Boko Haram, aka Nigerian Taliban attacks in Borno and Yobe states, the US embassy has received information that Boko Haram may plan to attack several locations and hotels in Abuja, Nigeria, during the Sallah holiday,” the advisory said.

“Potential targets may include the NICON Luxury, the Sheraton Hotel, and the Transcorp Hilton Hotel.”

Eid-el-Kabir was marked on Sunday, but Monday and Tuesday were also public holidays in Nigeria.

The diplomat spoke of Boko Haram's increasingly sophisticated and deadly attacks in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer.

“I think it's a trend which we've seen over the past year,” he said. “The group has become increasingly sophisticated, increasingly lethal.”

There has been intense speculation over whether the group has formed links with foreign extremists, such as Al-Qaeda's North African branch.

The diplomat said there had been signs of individual links, such as Boko Haram members seeking training in foreign countries, but there has been no proof of operational ties.

“There's no indication that Boko Haram has linked up operationally with any other extremists beyond Nigeria's borders,” he said.

“The evolution of the group unquestionably though has made it clear that we need to step up our security procedures.”