As Nigeria prepares to mount a general election next month, officials believe that Boko Haram militants are conspiring to employ livestock like cows, donkeys, goats, and camels to covertly carry bombs to targeted sites within the country, and have warned farmers to mind their animals accordingly.
Authorities said that they uncovered word of the plot after intercepting intelligence detailing the strapping of explosives to farm animals to inflict public carnage, according to Mike Omeri, coordinator of the country's National Information Center and director general of the National Orientation Agency.
"Persons who rear goats and cows in the center are advised in their own interest to restrict such movements because actions could be taken, and nobody should blame the police and other security agencies for taking the necessary steps," Omeri announced at a press conference on Thursday, according to local outlet ThisDay, just a day ahead of an African Union summit meeting where the region's leaders were expected to detail an international campaign to combat Boko Haram.
He warned that individuals allowing their livestock to graze within city centers could be subject to arrest by security forces due to the security threat. Omeri also described alleged plans by the radical Islamist insurgency to dress up suicide bombers as cobblers to carry out attacks on soft targets like commercial areas.
"Available intelligence reports indicate a plan by Boko Haram to use young male suicide bombers disguised as cobblers to hide explosives in their toolboxes and detonate them in soft areas such as markets, restaurants, ATM locations, political rallies, worship centers as well as other public places," he said, and advised Nigerians working in these areas to remain vigilant of suspicious activity.
Boko Haram has lately ramped up its deadly campaign in the country's north and carried out a string of deadly attacks. The violence has resulted in hundreds of casualties and forced thousands to flee to neighboring Chad.
The use of animals to carry out deadly attacks is not unprecedented. The United States developed pigeon-guided missiles in the early 1900s, while last summer Hamas militants loaded explosives onto a donkey and directed the animal toward an Israeli army detachment. The soldiers "engaged" the donkey from afar in that instance, and the ensuing explosion did not result in any injuries (except for the death of the donkey).
The terrorist insurgency is familiar with developing alternative means of carrying out bombings. It used young girls to carry out a string of suicide bombings at markets in the city of Maiduguri in November, killing 90 people and prompting concern that the militants were weaponizing the 273 schoolgirls they kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok in April 2014. A suspected suicide bomber later reportedly informed the authorities that the militant group had deployed 50 female suicide bombers in Maiduguri.
In early January, three suicide attacks by young female bombers occurred in Maiduguri and the northeastern town of Potiskum.
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