War crimes: Fed Govt backs ICC probe of Boko Haram

The Federal Government will support the investigation of Boko Haram — the Islamic fundamentalist sect whose insurgency has claimed many lives—by the International Criminal Court (ICC), it was learnt yesterday.

The ICC at the weekend said the insurgents were committing crimes against humanity for which their leaders will stand trial.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in a report issued on Monday, said: “Information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that since July 2009, Boko Haram has launched widespread and systematic attack that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christians and Muslim civilians in different locations throughout Nigeria.”

If the ICC’s plans succed, Boko Haram leaders will face trial before the court, which sits at The Hague.

Among those tried and convicted for war crimes by the court is former Liberia President Charles Taylor.

A source in the Presidency said: “The Federal Government will support any plan by ICC to check the activities of Boko Haram. The ICC is a global court and we subscribe to it as a nation. This is not the first time that leaders involved in genocide or violent crimes would be tried by the court.

“Our backing for ICC is without prejudice to the ongoing dialogue with the sect.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “If necessary, we will make relevant records or reports available to the court.”

Also yesterday, it was learnt that the Special Forces clashed with Boko Haram to prevent members of the sect from regrouping to launch attacks on Borno State.

The Defence Headquarters has relaxed the 24-hour curfew in Potiskum.

According to highly-placed sources, who spoke in confidence, the clashes with Boko Haram, which led to the death of more than 35 people, became inevitable as a result of intelligence reports.

The source said: “The Special Forces had to engage Boko Haram in direct confrontation because in the course of trailing members of the sect, the straying ones tried to settle in some places and plan to launch deadly attacks on troops.

“They even attempted to overrun a police station and Army posts. We have no choice than to repel them and assert the control of the Special Forces in the emergency areas.

“The troops have tried as much as possible to abide by the rules of engagement but the fleeing insurgents are still bent on reprisals. This is why we need to rout them out.

“They have been regrouping to attack some areas in Borno and Yobe states especially during the Sallah festival.”

The troops are said to have been reinforced to curtail these insurgents in Borno and Yobe. “We still have some challenges in Gomiri, Yobe State, but we are addressing these,” a source said.

The relaxation of the curfew in Potiskum followed the completion of house to house search in the town.

The restriction of movement in the town will now be between 10pm and 6am, which is the same time with other parts of the state.

“We imposed the curfew based on intelligence report that Boko Haram members wanted to do massive bombing in various quarters in Potiskum.

“We resorted to house to house search in the town which has just been concluded,” another source said.

When contacted, the Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said: “It is true that the curfew in Potiskum has been relaxed because the purpose of the house-to-house search has been achieved.”

The police and the Borno State government said seven policemen were killed in last weekend’s Bama Mobile Police Base station attacks. Three other policemen were reported missing after the Boko Haram gunmen launched attacks at the station at 6.45am on Sunday.

Borno State Deputy Governor Zanna Mustapha and Commissioner of Police Lawal Tanko visited the injured at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), yesterday.

Police Chief Tanko said contrary to the Joint Task Force (JTF) statement that one policeman and two soldiers were killed in the attacks, seven policemen were killed, three missing and five injured. Three soldiers were also injured.

Tanko said: “Your Excellency, these are the five policemen admitted into this hospital as a result of the injuries they sustained in the Bama Boko Haram attacks on our station last Sunday. We confirm that seven were killed while repelling the gunmen from torching our Bama Moile Police Base on Bama-Gwoza Road at about 6am.”

He said the police authorities and family members of the missing policemen were yet to find their whereabouts and safety.

While sympathising with the wounded and injured policemen and soldiers, Mustapha donated a cash of N2.65 million to the eight patients.

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