Local Nigerian gangs allegedly kidnap kids on behalf of Boko Haram
Boko Haram employed three local gangs in northwest Nigeria to kidnap hundreds of schoolboys on its behalf, security and local sources stated Wednesday.
The militant group has officially claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, which targeted a secondary school in Kankar which is located in Katsina state.
However, sources told AFP the operation was carried out on Boko Haram's orders by a very notorious local gangster called Awwalun Daudawa.
The 43-year-old operated in collaboration with Idi Minorti and Dankarami, two other crime chiefs with strong local followings, they stated.
Criminal gangs, which are known as bandits, have terrorized communities in northwest Nigeria for many years, and experts had recently warned of attempts by militants to forge an alliance with them.
Daudawa "was an armed robber and a cattle rustler before he turned to gun-running, bringing in weapons from Libya, where he had received training, and selling them to bandits," remarked a security source.
"Over time, he forged an alliance with Boko Haram and became their gunrunner, taking weapons the group seizes from the Nigerian security forces in raids and ambushes and selling them to bandits for a cut."
The source also said: "Awwalun Daudawa was spotted in the forest in the Kankara area where he recently relocated and there were reports that he was planning something but it was not clear what it was."
Another source with knowledge of "bandit" activities in Katsina and Zamfara states commneted: "From available information, Awwalun Daudawa was ordered by Abubakar Shekau to kidnap the schoolboys and he enlisted the help of Idi Minorti and Dankarami."
"After the children were taken, they went across the border into Zamfara state and split them among different gangs 'for safe keeping'. And some of the gangs have been in touch with the authorities for the release of the boys."
The attack took place hundreds of kilometres (miles) from Boko Haram's stronghold in northeast Nigeria, in which it launched a brutal insurgency a decade ago.
The militants claimed responsibility in a four-minute audio tape, sent to AFP through the same channel as previous messages from the terrorist group.
"I am Abubakar Shekau and our brothers are behind the kidnapping in Katsina," stated the voice in the recording, resembling that of the notorious Boko Haram leader.