MAIDUGURI (Reuters) - Nigerian security forces have started door-to-door searches for weapons in northeast Borno state after an arms amnesty for Islamist militants expired on October 31, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
Colonel Mohammed Hassan, spokesman for the Joint Military Taskforce in Borno, said the measure was aimed at curbing violence in the state, which is suffering almost daily gun attacks and frequent bombings by the militant group Boko Haram.
“We have commenced house-to-house searches for illegal firearms because, from Tuesday morning, the deadline given to the public to surrender all firearms in their possession expired,” he told journalists in the state’s capital Maiduguri.
“This measure is aimed at bringing an end to the incessant attacks by Boko Haram.”
One search had already led to the arrest of a suspected bank robber with links to Boko Haram thought to have been behind a heist on a local branch of First Bank in which a policeman was shot dead, he said.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”, has been behind dozens of shootings in Nigeria’s northeast this year, usually targeting public and religious figures. Last month, it killed a state television cameraman.
The group is growing in ambition and sophistication. Nigerian and international security agencies believe it has been strengthening ties with al Qaeda’s north African wing.
The group claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing on the United Nations’ headquarters in the capital Abuja in August. Security crackdowns have yielded little and in some cases heavy-handedness has alienated the local population.
A state-sponsored committee in September recommended trying to establish a dialogue with Boko Haram, but no efforts have yet been made to engage its leadership.