On January 27, 2010, Malaysian authorities arrested ten individuals suspected of having ties to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a plane on Christmas Day 2009. Those arrested included four men from Syria, two from Nigeria and one each from Yemen and Jordan. Malaysia is now set to extradite the Nigerian men arrested for allegedly having terrorist ties. This raises many questions as to why these men were arrested, whether they are really connected to terrorism and what exactly will happen to them once they arrive in Nigeria.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a KLM flight in Accra, Ghana, connecting in Amsterdam on his way to Detroit, Michigan. The 23 year old Abdulmutallab, allegedly the son of an elite northern Nigerian banker, was charged with attempting to explode a device over the continental United States. His father apparently warned the U.S. government of his son's radicalization. American intelligence also had information about a Nigerian in Yemen for terrorist purposes. Plus, the fact that although Abdulmutallab was on a British 'watch list' such information was not shared with either American or Nigerian authorities. Furthermore, and most critically, the masterminds of the Christmas Day attempt were known Al Qaeda leaders, previously held in Guantanamo but released by the Bush administration to return to Yemen, a failed state and terrorist haven.
ALLEGED NIGERIAN TERRORISTS IN MALAYSIA
After the December 25th bomb attempt, the world was on edge. The result of this was that the U.S. placed Nigeria on a "Terror Prone" list leading to much condemnation and criticism from Nigerians and Nigerian officials. Additionally, it has been revealed that Nigerians are now being profiled when they travel in a post-Abdulmutallab's world. So, although the arrest of the two Nigerians in Malaysia was relatively unnoticed originally, the matter is of great significance given the tension Abdulmutallab's action's have triggered.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
The main question is who are these Nigerians that were arrested in Malaysia? While one cannot question the Malaysian government's right to protect its borders, the Malaysian government is unfortunately known for its use of draconian measures, such as the arrest of bloggers and the use of a highly controversial terrorism law that critics argue impedes civil rights. When these alleged Nigerian terrorists were arrested, Malaysian authorities made the distinction that foreigners and not Malays were potentially engaging in dangerous activities. Assuming that is the case, why are these Nigerians and the other alleged terrorist suspects being extradited? If they are as dangerous as originally portrayed, and if they are indeed connected to Abdulmutallab, shouldn't they be transferred to the custody of American authorities who are still investigating the Christmas Day suicide attempt? Considering the backlash many Nigerians have apparently faced since Abdulmutallab's suicide attempt, one cannot help but worry about whether these Nigerian students, who were pursuing PhD degrees were unjustly portrayed as having terrorist ties simply because of their nationality. Finally, what exactly does the Nigerian government plan on doing with these alleged terrorists once they are in Nigeria's custody?
Nonetheless, Nigerian authorities are under great pressure to prove that the government is committed to anti-terrorism. Hence, the Nigerian government should reveal whether or not these students were rightly connected to terrorism and Abdulmutallab. This writer desperately hopes that this situation - Nigerians allegedly tied to terrorism - is simply a mistake that will be rectified immediately and that Nigerian authorities will vigorously defend Nigerian citizens regardless of the circumstances.
UPDATE (March 26th, 2010): Two Nigerians have indeed been extradited from Malaysia. Their names are Abdul Luqman and Abdullahi Uthman. They returned to Nigeria on March 13th and are being interrogated by Nigerian authorities.
From the Archives:
- Nigeria Placed on "Terror Prone" List
- African Travel Post Abdulmutallab
- A Nigerian Terrorist & A People's Passivity
- 'Is Nigeria A Breeding Ground For Terrorism' (May 2007)
- America Speaks...Does Nigeria Respond?
- How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot With Al Qaeda