340 Nigerian police conclude Italian counterterrorism training


Italy has finished training 340 Nigerian security personnel as the West African country steps up its campaign against Boko Haram militia. At the same time the Nigerian government has launched its Integrated Assistance for Countering Terrorism (I-ACT) project.

The Italian ambassador to Nigeria, Roberto Colamine, said that the 340 trained officers include 20 border control officers trained by Italian financial police in charge of border control; 20 police officers trained by Italian civil police and 300 trained by Italian military police.

He said that the training was part of Italy’s contribution to counter-terrorism efforts in Nigeria, the Voice of Nigeria reports.

Speaking during the launch ceremony of I-ACT on Tuesday, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Olugbenga Ashiru said that Nigeria now had in place a coherent framework to supervise and co-ordinate security across the country.

The Project aims to facilitate internal co-ordination and information-sharing among Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies. Ashiru said the initiative has been in the works for three years.

In 2008, the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) started working with Madagascar and Nigeria to implement the I-ACT web-based information sharing and co-ordination system. Burkina Faso and Madagascar are also part of the I-ACT initiative.

The purpose of CTITF is to help UN member states implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Nigeria is seeking outside help to quell the Boko Haram insurgency. Its security forces have undergone training in the United States and Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika, said that Pakistan, Britain and France have offered anti-terrorist training.

Nigeria’s Sunday Punch said that 6 000 police officers have received counterterrorism training from Israeli experts in Israel and at the Anti-Terrorism and Insurgency Centre of the Nigerian Army School of Infantry in Jaji, as well as in military facilities in Lagos, Makurdi and Port Harcourt.

Deputy Force Public Relations Officer Yemi Ajayi last year said that 6 000 policemen graduated from the programme in 2011 and that 105 trainers have been trained in Israel.

Boko Haram is becoming a major headache for President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as it grows in sophistication and deadliness. Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that the sect has killed at least 935 people since 2009.

The group considers all who do not follow its strict ideology as infidels, whether they are Christian or Muslim. It demands the adoption of sharia, Islamic law, in all of Nigeria.

In July 2009, Boko Haram staged attacks in the northeastern city of Bauchi after the arrest of some of its members, and clashed with police and the army in the northern city of Maiduguri. Some 800 people were killed in five days of fighting in the two cities. Later that month, sect leader Mohammed Yusuf was captured by Nigerian security forces and shot dead in police detention some hours later.

In December 2010 the group said it was behind bombings in central Nigeria and attacks on churches in the northeast that led to the deaths of at least 86 people.

On June 16, 2011, a car bomb tore through a car park outside Nigeria’s police headquarters in Abuja. The next day Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the blast, which officials said may have been the first suicide bombing in Africa’s most populous country.

On August 26 a suicide bomber struck the U.N. building in Abuja. At least 23 people were killed and 76 wounded by the bombing which gutted the ground floor and smashed almost all the windows. Boko Haram claimed responsibility on August 29, demanding the release of prisoners and an end to a security crackdown aimed at preventing more bombings.

The blast was the first known suicide bombing in Nigeria. It marked an escalation in the group’s tactics and revealed an increase in the sophistication of explosives it uses.

Jonathan declared a state of emergency on December 31 in an effort to contain the violence. However, on January 20, coordinated bomb and gun attacks on security forces in the northern city of Kano killed at least 186 people – the group’s most deadly attack.