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Insecurity: Abuja at risk of terror attack as U.S. raises threat alert

…Government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, hotels, international organisations, others major targets

…U.S. Embassy announces reduced services until further notice

…Other nations caution nationals over travelling to Nigeria

By Moses Adeniyi

Barely four days after the Australian government warned its citizens against travelling to Nigeria, the United States Mission in Nigeria has issued a security threat alert over the risk of terror attacks in Nigeria.

A red alert released by the U.S Embassy in Abuja on Sunday specifically warned of such threat in the nation’s seat of power, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The statement read, “There is an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja. Targets may include, but are not limited to, government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations.”

The U.S. Embassy said it would offer reduced services until further notice.

The warning is coming barely four days after the Australian government warned its citizens not to travel to Nigeria over flooding and insecurity that has ravaged some parts of the country.

The consulate had said potential for terrorism, kidnapping, crime and civil unrest remained high throughout Nigeria.

This was made known last Wednesday in a travel advisory issued to Australians on the consulate’s website.

It alerted its citizens to research routes and get professional security advice and support before departing to Nigeria if there’s any need to be there.

The Australian government listing  states in the country directed her citizens to avoid, Abuja and its surrounding areas due to terrorist attacks and kidnapping threats, gave advisories on what to do if, in the aforementioned states.

The consulate however, advised that her citizens should consider leaving immediately or get professional security advice as their travel policy might be void.

The statement reads, “There have been significant casualties and widespread damage to infrastructure caused by severe flooding. Essential services may be disrupted. Follow the advice of local authorities and check the media for updates.

“The potential for terrorism, kidnapping, crime and civil unrest remains high throughout Nigeria.

“Reconsider your need to travel to Nigeria overall, including the capital Abuja and surrounding areas, due to high threats of terrorist attack and kidnapping, the volatile security situation, possible violent civil unrest and high levels of violent crime.

“Do not travel to Adamawa, Anambra, Akawa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Cross Rivers, Delta, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara States.”

Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city has been under terror threats recently which in July recorded some attacks around its surrounding communities, including threats by bandits on plans to kidnap the President.

Recall that July 24, a terrorist group in the North West had in a viral video threatened to kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari.

The threat came a few weeks after the convoy of Buhari was attacked in Katsina State.

The viral video, trailed an attack on the Kuje prison in Abuja, where terrorists freed their members locked up in the Correctional Centre, while later threatening the country’s number one citizen and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.

“If you don’t adhere to our demands, we will kill the ones we need to kill and sell the remaining. By God’s grace, El-Rufai, Buhari, we will bring you here,” one of the terrorists had said in the threat video in Hausa language.

Recall that following the Kuje prison attack, the United States (U.S.) government had warned its citizens in Nigeria to be security conscious and avoid unnecessary travel on the Airport Road in Abuja.

The warning came barely 24 hours after terrorists orchestrated the jailbreak at Kuje Prison in Abuja, freeing about 879 inmates who escaped, while five persons died.

In a statement posted on its website, the U.S. Consulate in Nigeria had said, “It is recommended that U.S. citizens should maintain a high state of personal security awareness for the next two weeks and avoid unnecessary travel on the airport road.

“Crime is endemic throughout Nigeria and tends to spike after dark. Avoiding locations and situations that increase the likelihood of being victimized is the best defence. Avoid displays of valuables and limit night time activity.”

According to the statement, terrorist groups and those inspired by such organisations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens abroad.

It observed that terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack — including knives, firearms, and vehicles — to target crowds more effectively.

“Frequently, their aim is focused on unprotected or vulnerable targets,” the statement had read.

The US Consulate offered security tips to be adopted by Americans in Nigeria, telling its nationals to avoid high-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc, as well as hotels, clubs, and restaurants frequented by tourists, places of worship, schools, parks, shopping malls and markets.

“Be aware of your surroundings. Keep a low profile, carry proper identification and monitor local media for updates. Review your personal security plans.

“Always drive with your windows rolled up and the doors locked.

“Avoid large gatherings and protests. Review alternative travel routes in case of unexpected protests or unrest.

“Exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests. Always keep the doors to your residence locked, even when at home,” the statement added.

In the same vein, the government of the United Kingdom (UK) had similarly warned its citizens against travelling to 19 states in Nigeria.

The states include Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

The UK government equally advised its citizens to only embark on essential travel to Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Kogi, within 20km of the border with Niger in Kebbi State, Abia and non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Plateau, and Taraba.

Recall similarly, last October 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) had warned its citizens against travelling to 12 States in Nigeria over insecurity issues.

Disclosed in a travel advisory published by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the UK government had warned its citizens of a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria for ideological, financial or political gain.

It warned its nationals to stay away from 12 states; Borno, Yobe, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina,Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Zamfara, and Adamawa states.

The FCDO had also advised its citizens against all but essential travel to Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Kogi within 20km of the border with Niger in Kebbi and Abia States respectively.

Part of the advisory had read, “Foreign nationals, including humanitarian workers, are likely targets for kidnap. Humanitarian hubs and humanitarian workers have been targeted during attacks in the North East, including Monguno, Borno State on 13 June 2020.

“The security environment in the North East has deteriorated since 2018 and there is a heightened risk of kidnapping of humanitarian and private sector workers.

“There are also reports that Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) have an active plan to kidnap foreigners. As well as in North-East Nigeria, extremist groups operate in some northern and middle belt states including Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Niger and Adamawa states.

“If you are working or travelling in these States then you should be aware of the risk of terrorist kidnapping,” it said.

The UK government, highlighting the level of insecurity in the country, had also warned against attacks and killings in South-East regions.

“There have also been a number of attacks and targeted killings in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria, including in the states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Imo, Abia, Anambra, Delta, Edo and Ebonyi. Some of these attacks have been on isolated roads and in remote locations, but there is a chance that they could occur in metropolitan areas,” the advisory had read.

The Government had advised those travelling to those regions to be careful, follow local news and information outlets for further information, including on local curfews.

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