Nigerian authorities are interrogating a spokesperson for Boko Haram, the extremist Islamic sect that has claimed responsibility for hundreds of deaths this year, Reuters reports.
Police say they stormed the home of “Abu Qaqa,” a pseudonym for the spokesperson, early yesterday morning in the northern city of Maiduguri, Reuters reports. Qaqa was hiding under the bed when they barged in, after tracking him though his cell phone.
“We’ve arrested Abu Qaqa, the so-called spokesman of the Boko Haram sect and one of its leaders,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, the director of the State Security Service in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, to Bloomberg News.
Police also said that six people suspected to be members of Boko Haram were hacked to death with machetes last night. Police blamed Boko Haram for the attack, according to Bloomberg.
“The killing may have been a result of division among sect members,” said Hassan Mohammed, an army spokesperson.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” is responsible for 935 deaths since it began violent campaign in 2009, according to Human Rights Watch. Its stated purpose is to impose a strict version of Shariah law in Nigeria’s mostly-Muslim North, and secure the release of all members detained in Nigeria.
Early this year, Boko Haram leaders told Christians they should flee the North, and “return” to the largely Christian South. Both Muslims and Christians have been victims of the attacks, including the Jan. 20 bombings in Kano that killed between 185 and 256 people.
The International Crisis Group says 14,000 people died in ethnic or religious clashes in Nigeria between 1999 and 2009. The Boko Haram attacks, which some see as an extension of those clashes, have intensified in recent months after dozens were killed in church bombings on Christmas Day. The International Crisis Group says Boko Haram is displaying “increasing signs of sophistication.” It appears that Boko Haram may be getting advice and support from Al Qaeda and its African ally, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
“President Goodluck Jonathan’s claim early in the month that the militants enjoy support in the civil service and security forces was further indication of the gravity of the threat they pose the state,” the International Crisis Group said in a statement on its website.
Jonathan, who has been criticized for failing to stop Boko Haram, sacked his police chief and six deputies last month after a key suspect escaped custody. He has repeatedly called for dialogue with Boko Haram, but the group has refused to talk.