Nigeria deports 700 immigrants in sect crackdown

Hundreds of immigrants have been deported from northern Nigeria back to neighbouring countries as part of a security crackdown on a radical Islamic sect, a senior immigration official said on Thursday.

Suspected members of the Boko Haram sect have been blamed for torching police stations and carrying out fatal sniper attacks on police officers and local officials in the remote northeast of Africa’s most populous country.

Around 700 migrants from Niger, Cameroon and Chad have been expelled amid fears the sect may be drawing members from outside Nigeria, said Babayo Alkali, the top immigration official in Maiduguri, capital of the northeastern state of Borno.

“With the recent security threat in the state and approaching election, we had to embark on an exercise to clear the state of all illegal aliens,” Alkali said.

“Some foreigners were implicated in the Boko Haram security breach so we had to act,” he said.

Alkali said those deported, some of whom said they were visiting relatives, had been found to lack the necessary paperwork to stay in Nigeria. He did not say whether they had been found to have any links with Boko Haram.

Boko Haram is calling for sharia (Islamic law) to be implemented across Nigeria, a country of 140 million people that is roughly divided into a mostly Christian south and largely Muslim north. A dozen northern states have introduced the religious code over the last decade.

The sect first gained wide attention last July, when it launched an uprising in Maiduguri that led to clashes with security forces in which up to 800 people were killed.


Some northern Nigerians say the recent resurgence in violence is a form of revenge against the authorities. Police officers, government officials and traditional leaders have been killed in a wave of attacks that began in August.

Nigeria is due to hold a fiercely contested presidential election within the next six months and security concerns are high. Some northern factions within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are opposed to the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is a southern Christian.

The dusty and impoverished north is not the only area of concern.

There are also fears that an amnesty for rebel groups in the oil-producing Niger Delta, hundreds of kilometres away on the country’s southern coast, is starting to fray.

The amnesty has brought more than a year of relative peace in a region where militants had for years attacked oil facilities and kidnapped Nigerian and foreign employees of firms including Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil.

A bomb attack in the capital Abuja on Oct. 1, which killed at least 10 people, was claimed by rebels from the region, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil and gas reserves.

The security services said last month they would boost the army and police presence, including using helicopter patrols, in Borno in a bid to contain Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful” in the local Hausa language.


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