April 4, 2016 / 8:47 AM / 3 years ago

Nigerian army arrests leader of Islamist militant group Ansaru

Nigerian Army soldiers stand as part of preparations for deployment to Mali, at the Nigerian Army peacekeeping centre in Jaji, near Kaduna January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria’s army arrested the leader of Islamist militant group Ansaru, a splinter faction of Boko Haram that has been accused of kidnapping and killing Westerners.

In 2012 the U.S. State Department named Ansaru leader Khalid al-Barnawi one of three Nigerian militants blacklisted for ties to Boko Haram and al-Qaeda’s north African wing.

Defence spokesman Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar said al-Barnawi was arrested in Lokoja, the capital of the central state of Kogi, on Saturday. “We have made that giant stride,” said Abubakar.

He also said some Boko Haram fighters had surrendered to Nigerian troops.

Muhammadu Buhari has made it a priority of his presidency to defeat Islamist militancy in Africa’s most populace nation, which also has the continent’s biggest economy.

Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by John Stonestreet

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